lead at the origin of a decrease in the population of raptors

Conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge, this study is presented as the first to calculate the impact of these poisonings across Europe. It analyzed the lead concentrations in the liver of 3,000 raptors of 22 species found dead or dying in 13 European countries (France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Greece).

A 6% lower population

Researchers estimate that for 10 species of these birds, which feed on live prey and carrion, poisoning the feed with lead from hunters’ ammunition leads to a reduction in their population of 55,000 adult individuals in the sky. European – compared to what their number would be without this poisoning. The models indicate that their population is thus 6% lower than it would be without the effects of lead, which promises contaminated birds a “slow and painful” death.

The population of white-tailed eagles is thus 14% lower than it would be without exposure for more than a century to lead, those of the golden eagle and the griffon vulture respectively by 13% and 12%. It is 3% for common birds such as red kite or marsh harrier.

The population of common harriers is 1.5% lower, but this low percentage corresponds to 22,000 birds as this species is widespread.

Lead is the problem

Unsurprisingly, the researchers observed a correlation between the density of hunters and the number of poisoned raptors. And “the fact that no lead-poisoned raptors have been found in Denmark after the country banned lead ammunition in 1996 indicates that the lead causing the problem comes from hunters’ ammunition,” the report said. Pr Rhys Green, lead author of the study. “The level of decline in raptor populations suggested by our study would be considered worthy of strong action, including legislation, if caused by habitat destruction or deliberate poisoning,” he said in a statement. a statement.

“The preventable suffering and death of many raptors from lead poisoning should be enough to demand the use of non-toxic alternatives,” said study co-author Debbie Pain, stressing the urgency for action.

Hunting is held responsible for the dissemination of approximately 14,000 tonnes of lead each year in the European Union, the study points out. Two European countries have banned it: Denmark and the Netherlands. Denmark plans to ban lead rifle bullets as well.

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