Ljubljana – Italian drivers have been caught trying to smuggle dozens of wild birds, including protected species, from Croatia to Italy during recent spot checks conducted by Slovenia’s Financial Administration.
Two cases of illegal bird smuggling were uncovered in just five days of customs oversight conducted in October as part and international campaign.
The customs officers were joined by members of the Bird Watching Association as they inspected 500 cars and lorries in a campaign that the association says shows Slovenia remains an important transit country for this type of crime.
One Italian van driver was found transporting a bag of six frozen specimens of the Eurasian woodcock (Scolopax rusticola), hunted in Croatia. He said he got the birds as a gift when buying a dog.
The customs officers also pulled over an Italian hunting party returning from a hunting trip to Croatia.
One vehicle was found to carry a cool box containing several specimens of the common quail (Coturnix coturnix) and stock dove (Columba oenas), as well as wild boar meat and at least ten mallards (Anas platyrhynchos).
In the trailer pulled by another vehicle the officers found dozens of mallard ducks, four pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) as well as two Eurasian teals (Anas crecca) and a pintail (Anas acuta).
Of the species of the birds found in the vehicles only the mallards and pheasants are not protected in Slovenia.
The Bird Association says Slovenia, along with Croatia and Hungary, is a major transit country through which tens of thousands of live and dead birds are transported to the Italian black market every year. The dead birds are used for food in restaurants for wealthy punters and live birds for breeding or as pets.
The exact scope of the bird smuggling is hard to assess because regular customs checks are no longer conducted on the border with Croatia since the country joined the EU in July 2013, which the association said made targeted checks during the autumn bird migration period the more valuable.