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SPEA is an Environmental not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support research and conservation of wild birds and their habitats, by promoting sustainable development for the benefit of future generations.
Home  > Participate > Campaigns > Ilegal trapping

Ilegal trapping
  • Capture and illegal sale in Portugal
Some probably don’t known it, but in Portugal the capture of wild birds, non-game species, for captivity or consumption is an illegal practice. In a recent study, it was concluded that Goldfinches, Chaffinch and Redpolls are the most sold Passeriformes on the Internet as pets and they are also the ones that end in the menus of restaurants most frequently.
People who capture this kind of birds are often unaware of the law, and those acting consciously, think that their actions will go unpunished. The law requires the imposition of fines in cases of capture and killing or illegal captivity of birds. But the cases where the law is applied are still a minority compared with the national reality and little is done regarding raising public awareness.
The districts of Faro, Porto and Lisbon are the regions with more cases of illegal capture and killing. In the Algarve there is the catch for snack, where Robins and Sardinian warblers are the ones who end up more often in the pan.
Although as far as we know, Portugal is far from a situation of disproportionate dimensions, as is the case of Malta, Cyprus and Egypt, this issue is also relevant in our country. However, until recently there were no estimations that allowed us to realize the magnitude of this problem. On the other hand, the authorities action have been insufficient to reduce the number of illegalities.
This problem affects the conservation of nature, not only for the importance of birds in natural pest controls but their loss makes biodiversity poorer.

Blue tit for sale

On the Internet there are new listings every day, selling up birds of all kinds, from the most common to rare and endangered. The available species are woodpeckers, jays, aquatic species as Kentish plovers or Pochards, or even owls, etc. But the most common sales are songbirds as Goldfinches, Bullfinches, Greenfinches, Tits, European robins, etc. The legality of these ads is at least doubtful. This means that these ads are not necessarily illegal, as there are cases of duly registered and authorized creators by the ICNF. However the vast majority of ads really represent illegal sales.
The online sales companies have the moral duty to demand the creator his registration number, thereby preventing access of illegal vendors to this tool, drastically reducing their ability to reach their target audience and thus facilitating the work of the competent authorities. SPEA has made several complaints to SEPNA and ICNF about online ads, which to date have been unsuccessful, because the action of the authorities is limited, in most cases, to cases of flagrante delicto (detention of illegally captured bird). It should be noted that for each bird advertised on the Internet and captured in nature, several others have died, for not resisting nets and traps, transportation or captivity.

Dish of the day: fried birds

The birds slaughtered for culinary purposes, something associated with our past, are another major problem. These snacks, such as the sale of birds to captivity, are not necessarily illegal. If they are Song thrushes hunted during the statutory period or frozen birds (imported from China, for example), the restaurants are not incurring in an illegality. Once again there must be an investigation to determine the legality of the sale, and the official numbers of offenses for this type of cases do not express the reality observed by many.

  • Traps used
If you notice any of these traps in the field, please contact SEPNA:

- Nets - are very easily found for sale on the Internet and are also used for ringing. Allows the birds to stay alive.
- ‘Costela or loisas’ – spring traps that are used to catch rats. Winged ants are used as a bait. Birds die immediately. Birds captured this way are for culinary purposes.
- ‘Visgo’ - It is a kind of glue, which is very easily found on the Internet and is easy to manufacture at home. Birds captured this way do not stay in very good condition and some of their feathers get glued to the visgo. These birds can end up in cages or also have culinary purposes.
- Cages - a method widely used to capture birds to put in cages is to use other birds as decoys. The wild bird enters the cage and triggers a mechanism that closes the cage.

Other methods:
- Ground corn used with rat poison to indiscriminately kill all grain-eating birds. Serves to control cereal eating species;
- Capture of young owls directly from the nest to use as pets:
- Use of glue (“visgo”) in small sticks;
- Covering the entry of a well with a net, picking up all the birds that are there;
- Hold a stake in the ground and tie a twine with a hook at the tip with a worm. The animal is tied to the hook and struggling for hours until the arrival of an agonizing death.

  • Objectives

This campaign aims primarily to draw attention to a problem which we have spoken informally, but very little has been done to solve it. We are aware that there is a long way to go to change mindsets and the law.The goal is to draw attention to this subject, let people know that this is a serious problem of nature conservation, find ways to combat misinformation and make sure the law is applied in a more effective way.

Main goals

Getting people to talk about it;
Educating people about what is legal and illegal;
Raise awareness of not keeping wild animals in captivity and not to eat birds obtained illegally;
Prohibit announcing the sale of birds, without creators providing their register, in online sales sites like OLX, CustoJusto, AnimaisClassificados or others;
Prohibit the sale of capture material to people without a license;
Decrease the number of birds caught for culinary purposes in the Algarve;
Sensitize law enforcements to the importance of following up these cases;
Pressing the relevant authorities to amend the law to become more effective in combating them;
Collaborate with other environmental NGOs, national and international, to address this problem.

  • How can you help?
This campaign has no budget, so donations are an essential support for this campaign to go further.  By making a donation to this campaign type whenever possible in descriptive "campanhacaptura"

Domestic transfers: indicate the reference "Donation". NIB: 0033 0000 45211417537 05 (Millenium BCP)

International transfers: indicate the reference "Donation".
Bank: Millennium BCP
Address: Avenida 5 Outubro, 60-68 1050-059 Lisbon
Nº Account: 45211417537
IBAN: PT50003300004521141753705

Tell OLX NOT and report ads

1. Regularly ads will be shared whose probability of being considered illegal is quite high. We call on everyone to do "REPORT AD" on the right side of the advertisement page in the case of OLX. One of the online sales sites where we can find more often ads of this kind;

2. Complain to SEPNA, sending ads to and the ICNF via e-mail: (Species Management Division of Wild Fauna and Flora);

3. Send the pro forma letter available for OLX and the ICNF. Customize as you understand. Preferably signed, or Login with your details to be considered more credible;

4. Share on your social networks online sales posts so your friends can also report and denounce. Always use hashtags #olx #onlinesale #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale;

5. Share the messages to be shared on social networks of SPEA and its partners to deliver the message to more people.

6. If you have TWITTER share these messages:
- I DO NOT want birds in the cage or on the plate! #spea #olx #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds
- Wild birds in the cage NO! Release the birds of #olx #spea #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds
- Wild Finches are to fly and not to cook! #spea #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #birds
- How about some robins fried in the pan? #spea #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #birds
- Wild birds belong to nature, not to a cage. #spea #olx #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds
- I do not want Portugal to be an obstacle for migratory birds. #spea #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #birds
- In the cage or on the plate the birds do not fly anymore. #spea #olx #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds
- Capture birds is illegal, buying them is agreeing with this crime. Report! #spea #olx #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds
- The capture of birds is a crime, do not be an accomplice. Report! #spea #olx #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds
Make your own Tweet with a link to our campaign page and use the hashtags: #spea #olx #ilegalcapture #ilegalsale #custojusto #birds

  • Impact
Not only are we talking about a loss of biodiversity in our country, but also the species most hit by this scourge, are generally excellent pest-controllers. So this practice can lead to an increase of insect pests.
To add to the capture for dining purposes and as pets there is also the slaughter of birds for "predator control" which victimizes owls, hawks, eagles, shrikes, ravens, etc. Again, the denunciation of these cases is rare and to catch offenders in the act is even more difficult.

  • Legislation in Portugal
It is explicitly prohibited the killing and capture of all bird species naturally occurring in the country (except during the hunting season and for game species) as well as the use of all wild bird capture means: nets, traps, loops, etc. ..
It is easy, however, to find "holes" in the law that allow this kind of offense: traps and other means of capture sale is legal and not controlled. On the other hand, the law does not prohibit the advertisement of bird sales: Only the acts of possession or sale are penalized. This means that when a complaint is made about an advertisement, SEPNA will have to start a process of investigation to ascertain whether the animal is actually held and if was caught illegally.
Very briefly, there is an European directive which is the Birds Directive and that is reflected in two Portuguese law decrees. In these decrees can be read clearly that, with respect to "all bird species naturally occurring in the wild in the country, including their eggs and nests" (...) "is prohibited ... capture, kill or arrest "," disturbing "," destroy, damage, collect or hold their nests and eggs, even if empty. If you are interested in knowing more deeply the law, please refer to Articles 2 and 11 of the following decrees.

  • Answers to questions
1. The sale of native birds such as cage birds is illegal? No. The birds may be traded provided they have been bred in captivity and only by licensed breeders for the purpose. Since there are locations in Europe (as some provinces of Spain) where this certificate is not required, and free trade between countries exists, in practice it is very difficult to know if the bird that is for sale is legal or was illegally captured.
2. The capture of wild birds into captivity is illegal? Yes, the European Directive on the Conservation of Birds (Decree-Law No. 140/99 of 24 April and DL 49/2005 of 24 February) prohibits the capture of any kind of native bird.
3. And the game animals? The Directive makes an exception for the species considered for hunting (Annex II of the Directive), provided that they are hunted in hunting activity, ie, it is also forbidden to pick them up for sale as cage animals, or others.
4. And the birds of prey? In addition to being protected as the other, most of the birds of prey are also specifically protected under CITES Convention regarding the international trade of species. This means that these birds may be marketed provided that they have an individual certificate of captive breeding or import.
5. And the exotic species? The international trade of species is regulated by the Washington Convention or CITES. All birds must be registered and marked with rings or electronic chips, to make sure its origin in captivity, which facilitates control by the authorities.
6. Catching birds with nets, traps or loops is illegal? Yes, the use of all these means of capture is illegal (except for scientific research and accredited banders). Any of these means of capture, if seen in the field, must be reported to the SEPNA / GNR.
7. It is illegal to sell nets, traps and other capture methods? No. The law is silent on this aspect, so you can freely sell this type of materials that can be used for other purposes, but it is not legal to use them to capture wildlife.
8. What is the impact of this catch on indigenous wild species? The data collected indicates that the exponential increase in online sales sites also led to a large increase in the number of animals sold this way. Each bird taken from his environment is as if they died, for the conservation of the population and its ecological function; on the other hand for every wild bird sold, we can tell that there were many who died along the way, either in nets or during transportation or already in the cages of the seller. The impact will be much greater than quantifiable.
9. What should we do when we see ads of native birds for sale?
a) you can contact directly with the seller and ask if the birds for sale have market approval and if they themselves are registered as vendors for the species in question; does not stop the seller activity but exposes him to its possible illegality;

b) may report the announcement on the site (almost everyone has an area to report ads) stating that the online sale should also be subject to the submission of breeding and sale commitments by the preacher;

c) can report the abuse to SEPNA / GNR, with copies to the ICNF and, for that matter for us because we like to be informed of the outcome of these complaints.
10. However what can you do when you find traps or nets in the field?
You can contact immediately the SEPNA - SOS Environment and Land Line: 808 200 520 or make an online complaint: Moreover, any agent of the GNR or PSP has a duty to act in these situations, so also just contact the local authorities, which may be even faster than the SEPNA.

Photos of nets can help in the online complaint: it is also important to know and characterize the situation, especially in relation to where the nets are for the SEPNA to be able to find them and seize them, as well as the birds that were found. In general you will have a response with the result of SEPNA's performance. However, our experience leads us to believe that there will be only the identification of the offender if by chance the GNR finds him in flagrante delicto.

If you prefer you can also give us all relevant information on these occurrences and we make the complaint.
If you have photos of nets, traps and / or captured birds and want to contribute to the campaign that we develop, you can send us that, upon proper authorization, we can use them as part of the communication campaign.

11. And if I find fried birds for sale? In this case is more complicated to assess whether they are illegal or not. On the one hand there are those who give this name to the thrushes sold (legally hunted), quail or even imported birds from China, already frozen. If you suspect they are in fact coming from illegal capture, you can also make complaint to the GNR or the ASAE. They will verify with the seller if he has proper receipts for buying the item.

12. I have wild animals in illegal captivity. What can I do? If you have wild animals in your home you should deliver them in the recovery center for wild animals near you ( for them to assess the animal's condition and the possibilities for them to be recovered and returned to nature.

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