Update on hunting monitoring

The first year of the systematic monitoring of the hunting pressure in the Batumi Bottleneck is slowly coming to its end. The volunteers of the Hunting Monitoring Team have been observing the shooting activity behind the watchpoint 1 in Sakhalvasho, recording the number of shots heard and hunters seen, as well as the number and species of the killed and injured birds.

Hunting team coordinator Anna Sandor scanning the ridges behind station one on illegal hunting activity with the Swarovski ATX scope

During the 43 days of observation until now we recorded 199 birds killed and 82 injured; the majority of the shot species were Honey Buzzards with 133 killed (67%) and 62 injured (76%) individuals. On days with favorable shooting conditions up to 27 hunters were present on the ridges above Makhinjauri.

The team also visited four other shooting hot spots in the region, where the wings and feathers left by hunters were counted and identified. We found the remains of 280 individuals, the majority of which were Honey Buzzards (64%), Montagu’s Harriers (9%), Bee-eaters (6%), Eurasian Sparrowhawks (5%), and Marsh Harriers (4%).
Harriers appear to be very vulnerable for illegal shooting around Batumi, due to their flight strategy, often crossing low over the Caucasian foothills and the highest concentration on migration recorded anywhere in the world. One of the priorities is to reduce the casualties amongst harriers, as they are not very tasty either.

The Hunting Monitoring Project by Batumi Raptor Count​ and SABUKO aims to provide a better estimation of the scale of illegal shooting of migratory raptors in a strictly non-confrontational manner.

The results of the monitoring will be used as a first step towards the understanding of the effect of the shooting on the migratory populations, evaluating conservation actions as well as for finding mutually acceptable ways to solve this conservation conflict on the long run.

Anna Sandor examining two freshly shot juvenile Honey Buzzards (c) Gernant MagninCut-off wings of Montagu's harriers. Photo by Anna SandorRemnants of an adult male honey buzzard. Photos by Anna Sandor

The project, conducted by Georgian and international volunteers, is funded by the OSME Conservation and Research Fund, and supported by SWAROVSKI OPTIK. We would like to express our sincere gratitude towards our sponsors for making this possible. Special thanks should go out for the volunteers doing an incredible job, not always the most enjoyable one as a birder or conservationist! Thanks to Mikhail Potskhishvili, Conor Mackenzie, Alice Tribe and Johannes Jansen for their efforts, Dietrich Ristow for sharing his expertise in feather identification and coordinators Sarah Darymple & Anna Sandor for the impressive work!

Read the detailed preliminary report (pdf in English and Georgian) here. More on the subject later.

To support BRC's monitoring and conservation work yourselves, find out more on www.batumiraptorcount.org/help