Zoos against the massacre of migratory birds in the Mediterranean

Director´s view

Miroslav Bobek  |  13. 07. 2019

The Union of Czech and Slovak Zoological Gardens (UCSZOO) has placed several billboards on the roads leading from Prague and Bratislava airports to the respective centres of both cities. They show a dead robin or goldfinch.

These unpleasant images are accompanied by the slogan:


The text on the billboards in Prague is in English, while the slogan in Bratislava has both Slovak and English, due to the law on language. However, this does not change the fact that Czech and Slovak zoos are focusing this campaign on visitors to both countries, especially those from Italy, France, Greece and other Mediterranean countries, where the massacre of wild birds is most intense. It often concerns illegal hunting where the frequent victims are birds that nest in our countries.

Understandably, the billboards only have room for a very brief statement, but if that weren’t the case, I would add a paraphrase of a quote from Heinrich Lumpe, a trader and bird conservationist from Ústí nad Labem. In 1934 he stated, “There are two things in Europe that we Central Europeans cannot come to terms with: bullfights in Spain and the slaughter of birds in Italy.”

Much has changed in the last 85 years, including the approach to bullfighting, but the problem of killing migratory birds in Italy and elsewhere around the Mediterranean is, unfortunately, still ongoing.

In a situation where wild birds face ominous changes in the landscape and the use of chemicals, there can be no justification for limited legal hunting, even though it harks back to local traditions (though, for example, Japanese whalers also refer to tradition, and, if we were to do the same, we could also point out that we had a custom of nailing bats to the gate). This makes illegal hunting all the more unacceptable, both inside and outside the EU. The twenty-five million birds that are estimated to be slaughtered every year is a truly terrifying figure!

The aforementioned Heinrich Lumpe, who, in his day, managed to convince Mussolini about the necessity of stopping the hunting of migratory birds, founded the “Lumpepark” in Ústí nad Labem. This later became the Ústí nad Labem Zoo, which today, as well as other zoos associated within UCSZOO, supports projects to protect endangered species in the world. But if we are engaged in Indonesia, Cameroon or Mongolia, then we cannot turn a blind eye to what is affecting our own wildlife. Perhaps our joint campaign against hunting migratory birds in the Mediterranean, together with the help of Czech and Slovak MEPs, will be one of the many steps that will finally lead to change.

Published in the Czech daily MF Dnes.