Lead pollution has decimated European raptor populations

2022-05-30 0 By

London (AFP) – Europe’s raptor population is about 55,000 fewer than it should be because of lead contamination in their food from shotgun ammunition, according to a study published Tuesday.The Cambridge study collected data on lead levels in the livers of thousands of dead raptors to assess the impact of poisoning on raptor population sizes.The study found there were about 55,000 fewer adult raptors in Europe.White-tailed eagles and golden eagles are down 14 percent and 13 percent, respectively, from normal.”The continued widespread use of lead pellets means that unless things change, hunting as a pastime simply cannot be considered sustainable,” said lead author Liz Green, a conservationist at the University of Cambridge and the RSPB in the UK.”Unfortunately, efforts to encourage people to voluntarily give up buckshot have so far been completely ineffective,” she said.She added: “If the decline in raptor populations shown by our research is due to habitat destruction or deliberate poisoning, it deserves strong action, including legislation.”The study found that species like eagles were the worst affected.They live a long time in nature and produce very few young each year.Activists believe hunters could use a range of alternatives to lead shotguns.Previous research by the Cambridge university team found that more than 99 per cent of pheasants killed in the UK were shot with lead, despite a 2020 call by hunting groups for members to switch to non-toxic ammunition.Two European countries – Denmark and the Netherlands – have banned lead ammunition, while the European Union and Britain are considering a ban on all lead ammunition.”These effects on population size make this issue both important and urgent,” said Debbie Paine, one of the study’s authors.The researchers used data collected since the 1970s on the livers of thousands of dead raptors in 13 countries and tracked their relationship to the average number of hunters per square kilometer in each country.The researchers found higher numbers of lead-poisoned raptors in areas with higher concentrations of hunters.Source: Reference Information Network