The turtle dove population has declined by 78 percent between 1980 and 2015 due to sport hunting, shrinking habitat and disease (src: The Times). They spend two thirds of the year in sub-Saharan West Africa and the remainder of the year in their European breeding grounds. This submits them to European sport hunters. In Spain they will kill 800,000 this year according to the Spanish Society of Ornithology.
In France, President Macron has authorised hunters to kill more than 17,000 this year despite the species being threatened with extinction. The French Bird Protection League said that it would be a massacre and are seeking an injunction against Macron’s decision. The problem is that it will take too long to get the injunction because in the meantime the hunters will be killing turtle doves.
Conservationists and the European Union administrators have put pressure on the ending of the shooting of this bird and have cut the maximum number that can be shot from more than 90,000 a year to 18,000 in 2019 and further reducation of that number to 17,416 in 2020. The number remains too high according to the Bird Protection League.
One issue is that it is difficult to monitor the shooting of these birds. They use a smart phone app to count the birds shot but it appears not to be monitored properly. The idea is that when the quota is reached the hunters should stop shooting. The app registered 4,000 killed last year but this figure is regarded to be inaccurate and an underestimate.
France was ordered by the European Union this summer to protect threatened bird species and also to ban lime-stick trapping which I’ve written about before. The hunters put glue on branches so that when the thrushes land on the branches they become stuck at which point they can take them and use them as call-birds to attract prey within shooting distance.
Macron agreed to outlaw lime-sticking which angered the hunters so perhaps he is loath to anger them again by reducing turtle dove quotas to a level acceptable to ornithologists which is probably zero.
Supporters of the hunt refer to a study by the French National Office for Hunting and Wild Fauna which stated that between about 7,000 to 53,000 doves can be shot annually without endangering them to the point of extinction.
Mr Bougrain-Dubourg of the Bird Protection League said that “it is intolerable to continue to slaughter a species in its death throes”.