- Rollers, hawfinches, jackdaws, goldfinches and serins were among the birds rescued
- Authorities identified a criminal group involved in collecting nests and protected birds in central Italy to later sell them on the illegal market
- This is a new trend in wildlife crime
- Law enforcement has observed a growing demand for rare birds on the black market
Illegal hunting, trapping and trading of birds are not the only criminal activities threatening the lives of endangered species. Collecting hatchlings (newly hatched birds) and eggs from the nests of protected birds is a new reported trend in wildlife crime, which is causing a degradation of natural habitats and bringing protected species to the brink of extinction.
In an investigation led by the Carabinieri from the CITES Group, and supported by Europol, two suspects involved in poaching and trafficking of endangered species of birds have been identified and prosecuted in Italy. They were involved in collecting nests and protected birds in the central region of Lazio to later sell them on the illegal market, mostly to clients in northern European countries (the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium).
Europol supported the investigation by providing analytical and operational support to the Italian authorities. As a result, over 50 protected species of birds were rescued, some of them so young that were still featherless, including hawfinches, jackdaw, goldfinches and serins. Among them were 15 European roller birds, migratory birds with blue feathers, which are protected under national and international legislation and so cannot be hunted.
Once collected, the birds were sold on the clandestine market at prices from EUR 500 for a roller, EUR 200 to 300 for a kestrel, EUR 150 for a hawfinch and EUR 30 to 80 for a goldfinch.
Over the last few years the demand of rare birds on the clandestine market has significantly increased.
The adult birds rescued were immediately released. The baby birds were taken to be rehabilitated, and will soon be released into the wild.