As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Monday 15 February 2016

Failure to ban toxic ammunition putting bird lives at risk

By BirdLife Europe, Thu, 04/02/2016 - 14:15

Birds in Europe will continue to be put at risk from lead poisoning, as the European Commission today announces it will continue allowing the chemical's use in ammunition.

Lead ammunition use will be regulated on a 
limited basis under the EU chemicals regulationREACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals), despite it being responsible for thousands of bird deaths every year.

Under REACH, the use of lead in ammunition could be banned completely through a so-called “restriction process”. Sadly the Commission has only chosen to focus on lead in wetlands, where a ban is already supposed to have been in place for many years. By taking this course, the Commission is ignoring the evidence of damage done by lead shots in other habitats and by rifle ammunition.

Lead is highly toxic to birds and people alike. A 
review by the University of Oxford found that 50,000 to 100,000 birds in the UK alone die of lead poisoning. Ducks and waders often mistake lead shot (small bullets) for grit (the stones they eat to help with digestion) and die a slow and painful death from the toxic effects.

Throughout the EU there are also frequently major cases of lead poisoning of 
raptors. One example is the poisoning of White-tailed Eagles, which eat carcases containing lead bullets every autumn. White-tailed Eagles and other raptors and vultures eat the carcasses of game species such as wild boar. Many wild boars that get shot do not die straight away and are not found by hunters. When scavenging on the carcasses of these species, raptors often ingest fragments of lead ammunition and die of lead poisoning.

UN Convention on Migratory Species, which the EU has signed, has called on its signatories to phase out all lead ammunition within three years. Several EU Member States, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, have already done so. Partial bans have been proven to be ineffective and unenforceable. In the UK, for example, lead shot has been banned in wetlands only, but investigations showed that as many as 70% of the ducks shot in England still contained lead shot. These figures exclude Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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