poisoned eagles 248.88.
(photo credit: On Valensi)
Ninety-five percent of animal poisonings in which the specific cause is known were done on purpose, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Nature and Parks Authority (NPA). The victims of such poisonings were usually a rival farmer's herd or wild raptors like eagles and vultures which like to feed off of agricultural produce.
In 37% of cases, no cause for the poisoning was discovered, but in the other 63% of cases, most were found to have been done with intent to kill. The study examined poisonings from 2005-2007. During that time, NPA rangers dealt with an average of 116 poisonings per year - roughly one every three days.
After examining the cases, the NPA researchers found certain patterns to the poisonings. Most of them occurred in the northern part of the country (76%). They occurred mainly during the summer months when crops were ripe and water scarce. They also occurred far more often when farmland was not sanitized correctly, meaning there were scraps of food left hanging around which drew in the raptors.
According to the researchers, NPA chief ecologist Noam Lider, Eyal Dror, Roni King and head of the NPA Science Division Yehoshua Shkedi, in 60% of the cases where the cause of the poisoning was known, the poisoners had set out to harm wild raptors.
In 35% of the cases, rival farmers poisoned each other's herds in a fight over pastureland. Twenty-one different types of mammals and 45 species of birds have been poisoned at one time or another. Many of the raptors were endangered species.
Accidental poisonings because of misuse of pesticides accounted for just 5% of the cases where the cause was known. Most of the deliberate poisoners used highly toxic pesticides, which are also dangerous to humans if ingested, the report's authors wrote.
The researchers concluded with a series of recommendations on how to tackle the problem. They pointed out that catching a particular poisoner and then tying him conclusively to the poison used was nearly impossible. To make it easier, they suggested tagging pesticides and poisons somehow so that they could be matched to specific purchasers. They also suggested empowering NPA and Agriculture Ministry inspectors with the authority to investigate such poisonings.
The researchers also suggested launching a two-pronged education campaign. They recommended teaching the children of the communities in which poisoning was common that poisoning was an ineffective means of keeping scavengers away and, moreover, that it was potentially harmful to people as well. They also urged a campaign to educate government decision-makers as to the seriousness of the problem.
The current situation in which anyone could buy poison without a license was unacceptable, the report's authors wrote. They urged that an oversight process be instituted over those who bought poisons and how they used them. They advised increasing the punishment for improper use of poisons as well.
Since untidy farms drew scavengers which were often then poisoned, there is a connection between proper sanitation on farms and poisonings. The researchers concluded that proper sanitation was essential on farms. Finally, while proper sanitation would reduce the number of scavengers hanging around, it would not prevent all birds from being attracted to agricultural produce. Therefore, they suggested finding new ways to safeguard the produce.