During a joint operation by representatives of the Directorate of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Razgrad and the State Hunting Area “Voden – Iri Hisar”, R. K. was detained. During an inspection of the offender’s home, ordered by the Razgrad District Prosecutor’s Office, frozen corpses and preparations of over 20 species of protected birds and mammals were found. Some species are prioritized for conservation in Europe, such as the Lesser Spotted Eagle and the Evening Kestrel; species included in the Red Book of Bulgaria, such as otter, white-tailed buzzard, little cormorant, reed warbler, also protected species such as native kingfisher, shrike and Eurasian hoopoe, as well as parts of illegally shot red deer. The purpose was most likely preparation for illegal trade.

The damage caused by the poacher extends beyond the borders of our country, because many of the birds killed are very likely from migratory populations from other European countries. Therefore, European environmental protection organizations and international institutions have been informed about the case.

The Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) suggests that the disappearance of some of the last pairs of Egyptian vultures in North-Eastern Bulgaria, which is one of the most endangered birds in the world and whose population in our country currently numbers only 25 pairs, is precisely due of this type of poaching. Shooting even one bird of a critically endangered species is a huge loss to its population and may contribute to its complete extinction.

“We did not expect that such a barbaric, mass killing of endangered species could happen in Bulgaria. Such actions can lead to the disappearance of a species from our country forever. We have no recent reliable nesting data of the evening kestrel, for example, and it may be that this individual shot one of the last pairs in Bulgaria. The case causes great concern among our colleagues in Europe, with whom we work together for the protection of these species,” commented Stoicho Stoichev, director of Nature protection at the BSPB.

“The person R.K. is known throughout Ludogorie for his poaching activities, but so far he has not been caught. During the searches of the area, two carcasses of killed red deer were found. We have doubts about other animals being killed, but we will be able to say that for sure when and if we find their remains. I define what happened as an act of vandalism and a crime against living nature. This is a gross interference in game populations and leads to a certain imbalance in them. Last but not least, poaching nullifies years of purposeful work of generations of hunting specialists and steals biodiversity and living nature from our children!” – commented Eng. Kiril Kolev, director of State Hunting Area “Voden – Iri Hisar”.

Crimes against wildlife, including poaching, wildlife trafficking and illegal poisoning, are causing significant biodiversity loss. They can, in an instant, make years of efforts to protect a species worthless. This activity is illegal and subject to severe penalties – including imprisonment. According to the Criminal Code of the Republic of Bulgaria, “Whoever destroys, captures, keeps or sells a specimen of European or globally endangered wild vertebrates without the necessary permit, is punished with imprisonment for up to 5 years, as well as with a fine of 1,000 to 5,000 leva and with compensation for the damages”. Pre-trial proceedings have been initiated in the case and an investigation is ongoing.

The lesser spotted eagle is a species protected by law on the territory of Bulgaria, included in the Law on the Protection of Biodiversity, as well as in the Red Book of Bulgaria in the vulnerable category. For almost 10 years, BSPB in partnership with forest institutions (EFA, SESE, NESE) has been taking targeted care for its protection within the framework of two projects financed under the Life program of the EU.

Pictured above: A Lesser Spotted Eagle killed