Allow us to draw your attention to our action, for which we need your understanding and urgent support.
1. A bit of history
Bird Protection and Study Society of Serbia (BPSSS) – Bird Life Аffiliateis fighting since 20031 for official ban of Turtle Dove and Common Quail hunting, motivated by sad outcomes of Balkan Birds2 scandal. Our main arguments, supported by both Serbian nature conservation institutes (Institute for Nature Conservation of Serbia and Institute for Nature Conservation of Vojvodina Province) were: 1. scientific data on population decrease on international3 and state4 levels,2) these are the species of international importance – SPEC33, 3) in majority of EU countries these are strictly protected, including all EU countries situated to the north, north-west and north-east from Serbia5, 3) scientifically based planning of population management of both species is lacking, hunting is unsustainable and number of shot birds is very high6, 4) Common Quail in Serbia is massively illegally hunted, using electronic hunting devices which are banned according to national and international regulations and 5) birds that are shot in Serbia cannot be legally transported to EU countries7, and, if hunting is organized for foreign hunters, those are smuggled, which is confirmed by multiple findings of smuggled shot birds, especially on the borders with Hungary and Croatia.
2. Inadequate, but brave decision
However, this argumentation was attacked by hunting associations, managing most of hunting grounds in Serbia, and stating that number of shot birds is small and that hunting does not influence populations of these species. Despite of that, after our efforts were supported by NGO Coalition for the Protection of Birds, Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection has adopted new Regulation on Protection of Species Protected by Closed Hunting Seasons8, in which Turtle Dove hunting ban was announced till 31 March 2017, while Common Quail hunting, sadly, stays as it was before, with no further restrictions.
3. „I do not know what is the African Dove! I don’t care about African Dove!“
BPSSS has welcomed this decision, although not completely satisfied with it. However, to our surprise, this issue has become one of most exploited topics in Serbian media and general public. The hunting lobbyists, represented also in National Assembly of Republic of Serbia, have directly asked prime minister Mr. Aleksandar Vučić (on open session of Parliament on 2 July 2015), why hunting ban was introduced to „African Dove9“, stating that „400 foreign hunters, who supposed to come and hunt in August to Serbia, will not come“. It was stated that loss will occur in national economy, caused by this omission of state administration“. Prime minister Mr. Vučić said that he is not able to respond without the minister of agriculture and environmental protection, who was not present. Yet, he replied: “Regarding the African Dove hunting ban, excuse me, I don’t know what is the African Dove. But, if you are right that it is a threat to our economic development, providing that we do not threat the survival of any species, there is no doubt that the Government will change that decision. I do not care about African Dove, but I do care about how to take this money from tourists and put them into our budget“10. Hunting associations and prominent politicians have started to spread completely false data on „flocks of hundreds of thousands African Doves falling on sunflower fields“,Turtle Doves as „pest“ during migration, Turtle Dove as unlimited source of income for poor managers of hunting grounds, NGO activists who do not care about wild animals, but only about foreign money…
4. We care about Turtle Dove! Do you?
BPSSS has not stayed silent. We are sure that we represent majority of citizens of Serbia, who have a right to enjoy in live Turtle Doves and wanta safer future for this species, safer stop-over sites during its migration and safer, nature-friendly atmosphere in Serbian society.Immediately after media appearance of this whole issue, BPSSS initiated a social network campaign, aimed to prove that there ARE people who care about Turtle Dove and that the number of those people is much, much HIGHERthan 400 (supposed) Turtle Dove hunters. The results that we have today are surprising, and much better that we expected. Our Facebook profile was seen over 100.000 times in only four days!Why? We asked everybody to make a self-portrait and portraits of all possible supporters of a campaign, with a banner entitled „I care about Turtle Dove! Do you?“ in her/his own language. The number of portraits will demonstrate how numerous and united are people who care about the future of this declining species. If needed (i.e. in case of withdrawal of two-year Turtle Dove hunting ban), it will be presented in official letters sent to Serbian authorities.
5. Help us! How?
a. Take a self-portrait or a portrait of any other supporter of this action with a banner anda simple message: „I care about Turtle Dove! Do you?“, written in your own language, but also, if possible in English.
c. For any communication on Internet use #grlice.
We promise to keep you updated on this important issue.
3. BirdLife International (2004): Bids in Europe: Population Estimates, trends and Conservation Status. BirdLife International, Cambridge
4. Puzović, S., Simić, D., Savelјić, D., Gergelј, J., Tucakov, M., Stojnić, N., Hulo, I., Ham, I., Vizi, O., Šćiban, M., Ružić, M., Vučanović, M. iJovanović, T. (2003): Birds of Serbia and Montenegro: Breeding Population Estimates and Trnds: 1990 – 2002. Ciconia 12: 35-120.
6. Ristić, Z. (2008): Valorization of Turtle Doves and Quails in Vojvodina’s Hunting Tourism. ZbornikradovaDepartmanazageografiju, turizamihotelijerstvo 37: 122-135 (In Serbian with English Summary)
7. Council Regulation No, 338/97 of 9 December 1996 on the protection of species of wild fauna and flora by regulating trade therein33
8. Official Gazette of Republic of Serbia no. 55/2015
9. Colloquial name for Turtle Dove among Serbian hunters