05/22/2011 03:25

Nature and Parks Authority officials say farmers must stop poisoning crop-damaging animals.
Talkbacks (1)

A pair of white-tailed sea eagles that were returned to nature in 2007 after remaining naturally extinct in Israel since the 1950s were poisoned to death in the Emek Hefer area this week, the Nature and Parks Authority announced on Friday.

The sea eagles – the female originally from a Holland zoo and the male from the breeding center in the Carmel wildlife reserve – found each other and became a pair immediately upon release into nature, and this year built a nest together, the southernmost nest of the species in the entire world, according to the NPA.

But this week, the pair was found dead alongside four mongooses and 10 jackals by bicyclers in the Zeita Swamp area, all within a radius of 500 meters, explained the NPA, which immediately began an investigation into the situation. The animals were likely poisoned by feeding on small animals that were intentionally poisoned by local farmers in an attempt to protect their crops, the organization said.

“The sea eagles were restored from the breeding center, whose purpose was to newly colonize this important species in nature, after disappearing from Israel as a result of the drying up of wetlands in the 1950s,” said Ohad Hatzofe, an avian ecologist for the NPA, in a statement from the organization.

“These are overall the most southern inhabitants of the species in the world, the only on the Mediterranean coasts except for a few individuals in Croatia and in Turkey.”

Calling the sea eagles “super-predators” of the northern wetlands, Hatzofe explained that the animals are natural enemies to the area’s fish-eaters – such as large cormorants and night herons.

“They also fed on corpses, and like this were apparently poisoned while they ate from poisoned mammal carcasses,” Hatzofe said. “This is a sad day in which an achievement on an international scale turns to catastrophe on the same scale.”

Dr. Yehoshua Shkedi, chief scientist of the NPA, felt that this situation points to a larger problem of intentional – and illegal – poisoning constantly occurring all over the country.

“In Israel poisoning is common. Farmers make use of pesticides that are obtained outside the law, and a negligible quantity of them can also easily kill humans,” Shkedi said in the statement. “From research that we have conducted, we know that 95 percent of the poisonings in Israel occur maliciously, and most of them happen as a result of agricultural damages – a farmer that was negatively affected by a wild animal tries to poison it, and in the process usually hurts endangered species that are not connected to the initial damage.

“The fundamental reason behind agricultural damages in the first place is actually the lack of sanitation in the agricultural communities,” Shkedi said.

“The NPA invests an enormous amount of resources in returning to nature birds of prey that were extinct and in solving the poisoning problem,” added Eli Amitai, director of the organization.

“Among other things we oversee rangers that assist the farmers in coping with damages and provide a variety of solutions to a variety of problems, and in addition, we operate projects to collect carcasses from all over the country. In recent years, we submitted two thorough reports to the government about the poisoning phenomenon, the lack of sanitation and the connection between them, and I hope that the different government ministries will understand that without cooperative action and devotion to this mission, we will continue to annihilate precious and rare elements of nature.”