Animal Trafficking on the Rise
Trafficking and smuggling of protected plants and animals is on a constant and considerable rise, globally, as well as in our country. It is the third most profitable activity right after arms and drug trafficking, having recently outranked human trafficking.
According to the data of the Nature Protection Board at the Ministry of Culture, trafficking of song-birds such as goldfinch, greenfinch, siskin and bullfinch, which are sold on illegal pet markets, is the most often kind of trafficking in Croatia.
Quails, as well as razor-shells, are in most cases trafficked to meet the demands of gastronomists, especially Italian ones. Mr. Zeljko Vukovic, nature protection superintendent of the Ministry of Culture, said that birds of prey, falcons, hawks and eagles are trafficked due to the needs of falconry. However, cases of zoos trading local and nonnative wild animals, such as wolves, lynx and tigers have also been reported. Trading of protected and exotic wild species such as parrots, crocodiles, snakes, lizards, chameleons, iguanas, scorpions and spiders in pet shops is also on the rise. According to Mr. Zoran Sikic, the minister’s assistant, it is difficult to determine the proportions of trafficking in Croatia, or the profits made on illegal market, but it is for certain that this trade is continuing to rise. The market price of a big parrot is up to 20,000 Kuna, harming falcons is punishable by a 60,000 kuna fine per violation, wolves by 40,000 Kuna, while skin with fur, skull and teeth can fetch up to ten thousands Kuna. This all means that a huge profit is possible. Only in Djakovo, two years ago, the nature protection inspectorate confiscated protected birds whose value was estimated to approximately 4 million Kuna. These were mainly skylarks and tree pipits, killed by Italian hunters in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Rumania, who passed through Croatia on their way to Italy. Among the killed birds, the most valuable one was corncrake, killed in Bosnia and Herzegovina and protected in Croatia by a fine of 40,000 Kuna. Although illegal hunting and trading are on the rise, Mr Vukovic pointed out that so far none of the protected species of Croatia have been exterminated. However, birds of prey, weather fish and leech are in the greatest danger, since these fish are caught uncontrollably to be sold as fish bait.
Poaching and uncontrolled hunting threaten to exterminate quail, partridge, hare, as well as protected fish such as carp, crucian carp, starlet and Adriatic trout, which is an endemic species.
The Italians are the ones who typically kill birds on a massive scale; at fishponds they shoot ducks and coots while in private hunting grounds they shoot quails. Swamp birds and snipes are under attack of shotguns, bird-dogs and various bird-calls. Song-birds are being caught in traps and by lime, usually by Croatian citizens who use them for cross-breeding with canaries.
Fines from 7,000 to 30,000 kuna
After the smugglers and poachers have been discovered, the killed animals are confiscated, while the living smuggled animals are provided for in one of the state’s asylum, where they await their return to the country of their origin, or are taken care of permanently. By the Nature Protection Act, fines for smuggling and killing of protected animal species or plucking protected plant species move around 7,000 to 30,000 kuna.
Mladen Bokulic, Vjesnik newspaper
August 10, 2006