Spain’s Civil Guard has seized two poachers using illegal traps to capture hundreds of live birds to be eaten or sold off in tiny cages.
Trapping birds – seen as a tradition in the east and south of Spain – is carried out on an industrial scale with horrific snares like limesticks and mist nets.
Limesticks are twigs covered in a powerful glue which traps any bird when it land on one.
And the mesh in mist nets is so fine that birds fly straight into them and become hopelessly tangled.
Birds caught on limesticks are usually killed to be eaten as a delicacy, often as a meat side dish to paella.
Mist net victims are more often kept alive and sold on as songbirds cruelly kept in tiny cages.
In June the Berne Convention on the conservation of European wildlife – at the invitation of the Spanish government – approved new measures to tackle the illegal killing and capturing of wild birds with a special focus on migratory routes.
Now Spain’s Civil Guard has revealed it has broken up a cache of secret traps in Valencia’s Camino Bayo region and seized two suspects.
The area had been baited with grain to lure birds towards eight metre long nets that measured two metres across.
They also found a tree baited with hen’s eggs and cat food scattered on the ground and a trap door that once sprung meant wild birds could not escape.
Police also seized three bottles of glue and 500 sticks used to make limestick traps.
An exhaustive search found two large cages containing 221 protected birds, both by national legislation and by international agreements.
The birds were in perfect condition, so they were released back into the wild, say officials.
The released birds were seven thrushes (Turdus rufiventris), four Turkish pigeons (Streptopelia decaocto), one partridge (Alectoris rufa), 110 goldfinches (Cardelius cardelius), 38 common linnets (Acanthis cannabina cannabina), 10 siskins (Cardelius spinus), 20 song thrushes (Turdus rufiventris), one common starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and 30 greenfinches (Chloris chloris).
Officials say that the trapping of finches is prohibited by regional, state and international regulations through the European Convention signed by Spain and also applied to state and regional authorities.
A 54-year-old man – not named in local media – is being investigated for crimes against wildlife.
In a second investigation, police in Valencia searched another remote area known as El Quint and found a second suspect holding the trigger to a trap intended to catch birds brought to ground by grain bait.
Officers found four cages hanging from a tree with four finches in them and other birds tied to the ground one to act as a lure to bring in other birds.
Police say the trapped birds were four goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis), one sparrow (Passer domesticus), and one little serin ( Serinus serinus).
Likewise, the five birds used as a lure were confiscated – four goldfinches and one canary-goldfinch hybrid.
The five were transferred to a wildlife refuge La Granja del Saler for treatment before being released into the wild.
The rest of the wild birds captured, after verifying that they were in perfect condition, were released and returned to their natural habitat.
The investigation ended with a 60-year-old Spanish national being investigated for a crime against flora and fauna.
The cases have been delivered to the Environment Prosecutor’s Office of the Superior Court of Justice of the Valencian Community.