spread their net across Europe
Illegal hunting in Malta and Italy, a giant hydroelectric dam in Iceland and limestone-mining in Slovakia are just some of the threats to birds in Europe which are being tackled by the internet pressure group Proact. Proact is a growing coalition of birders worldwide which mounts a rapid-response campaign when birds and their habitats are threatened. The website was initially set up in 2000, to mobilise opposition to Italian MEP Michl Ebner's attempt to circumvent the EU Birds Directive by allowing individual nations the right to determine the duration of the hunting season for migratory birds in their own country. That campaign, which was successful, triggered an avalanche of emails which alerted other MEPs and the media to the outrage caused by the pro-hunting proposal. Sadly, the newly elected Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, and his ministers, are now attempting to revive the hunting plan with legislation in the Italian Parliament.
Proact is presently campaigning against plans by Club Med for a holiday resort in Morocco, adjacent to the world's last rernaining breeding colony of Bald Ibises [Geronticus eremita], and Norsk Hydro's plans for a giant hydroelectric dam on the edge of Europe's largest glacier, Vatnajokul, in Iceland. The latter proposal would affect an area of 3,000 km2, and breeding bird populations which include 3,800 pairs of Pink-footed Geese [Anser brachyrhynchus] and 700 pairs of Red-necked Phalaropes [Phalaropus lobatus].
In addition to lobbying, Proact members also take more direct action. In September/October 2001, a group of Italian and German volunteers set up camp in the Brescia hills near Lake Garda, northern Italy. They courageously targeted the bird-hunters who were illegally trapping thousands of small birds, particularly finches (Fringillidae). By the end of its month in the 'bird camp', the Proact team had confiscated 10,000 bow traps and smaller numbers of spring traps and mist nets. Italian forest guards arrested 30 poachers; information from the Proact volunteers resulted in ten of these arrests.
To find out more about the current campaigns, or to join the 300 birders already registered with Proact, visit the website: www.proactnow.org
© British Birds 94 December 2001 606-608