Shoot the goose
Shoot the goose is a campaign started by Spatia Wildlife and other Bulgarian tour operators in the field of eco tourism with the single mission to protect and conserve the handsome Red-breasted Goose in its wintering grounds.
What is the reason for the campaign? The whole population of this globally threatened species winters in Bulgaria and Romania, small numbers occurs in Ukraine, Austria, Hungary, Greece and possibly Russia, while single specimens can be seen in many other countries. Anyway, Bulgaria and Romania are the winter strongholds of the species. In Romania the birds are spread throughout Dobrudzha and the Danube Delta. However, in Bulgaria they are concentrated in two small freshwater wetlands in the extreme north-eastern corner of the country near the Black sea coast and the Bulgarian-Romanian border. In some years nearly the whole wintering population is gathering here. This makes the geese much easier to observe and study, and possibly to protect.
However this also makes the winter population very vulnerable and exposed to the existing negative factors.
And they are many, despite that the Red-breasted Goose is protected species.
The main one is the disturbance caused by the hunting in the area. Nearly all the time the Red-breasted geese are in mixed flocks with the White-fronted geese which are allowed for hunting. As a result the Red-breasted are constantly disturbed - while feeding, drinking, resting or, the worst of all, roosting in the night. One shot in the evening or in the night destroys the whole roost in the lake and the birds are forced to spend the night out in the rough sea, thus loosing valuable energy and getting weaker and weaker.
These unique birds breed in the arctic tundra and the conditions there are very harsh. It is often that the temperatures are around zero, and the night temperatures are often well below zero, sometimes up to -20 degrees Celzius (20°C). This mean that the winter in Bulgaria is actually a "holiday" for the geese and here they have to rest and feed and prepare themselves for the difficult way back home and for even more difficult breeding. However, the birds has no chance to rest and recover on their wintering grounds, as they are met by armed men, equipped with cars which have their heaters operating on max, so the cold winter is not their problem.
The limits and the bans defined by the Hunting Act are not respected at all. As a result the shooting occurs every day and night, everywhere, and on everything which flies. The hunters, mainly Bulgarian, but also Greek, Italian etc, are using sound recorders, motor boats and other strictly forbidden devices in order to shoot as much as possible. Thus, along with the White-fronted geese, some 100 - 400 Red-breasted geese are shot every winter in Bulgaria. Despite that it is strictly forbidden and penalties are foreseen, there are no hunters found guilty.
The future doesn't look good as just now there is a serious proposal to extend the hunting season till 28th February (currently it is till 31st January). Beside all, this will result in even more disturbance during the pair establishment preliminary to the breeding which will have devastating result on the population.
Not so crucial but also important negative factors are the threatening of their foraging fields (winter wheat) with chemicals and artificial fertilizers, pollution of the lakes with waste water etc. The plans for developing the area around the lake with hotels and golf courses also don't contribute to the geese welfare.
All the same applies also for the globally threatened Lesser White-fronted Goose.
On the other side are the authorities responsible for the geese protection. It will be not far from the true to say that there is missing any law enforcement and very little, if nothing, is done to fulfil their duties and prevent the disturbance and the direct persecution. The situation, to our knowledge is not better in Romania.
Sadly, despite the big international projects, focused on the species, that are constantly running in the last 15 years, and under which hundred of thousands, if not millions were spend, there are no satisfying results at all. The geese are more and more vulnerable and actually their population has collapsed during the last 3 - 4 years from about 78 000 to only 33 000 the last winter.
Based on all that, and triggered by the situation and few drastic cases in the last winter season, we have decided to start this campaign - Shoot the goose.
It will be direct and if necessarily even negative campaign. The time is running out for this beautiful bird and we are convinced that it has ran out for diplomatic, friendly and toothless actions which only lead to the continuous agony of the species.
The aims of the campaign are:
- In short term - strict control of the hunting regulations - regarding period, places, hunted species, number of birds shot. The hunting season for waterfowl to be maintained till 31 January and to be possible to hunt only Saturdays and Sundays (the same norms and for the hunting tourism), with no exceptions.
- In mid-term period (2-4 years) - total ban of the hunting in the following sites: around Shabla lake - Shabla lighthouse - town of Shabla - the international road to Romania - the line village of Ezerets - Black sea coast. Second area - around Durankulak lake - the line - Black Sea coast - village of Krapets - the international road to Romania - village of Durankulak, village of Granichar, Bulgarian-Romanian border.
- Ban of the hunting around the two of the second most important wintering wetlands of the species in Bulgaria - Pyasachnik reservoir as well as Ovcharitsa reservoir;
- The hunting season for the Quail to be restricted from 01 October till 30 November.
- Providing of permanent guarding (patrols) of the both Durankulak and Shabla lakes and the abovementioned areas from poaching - hunters, fishermen, crab collectors and any access into the lakes.
- Stimulating of the organic way of producing wheat and corn in the area.
- Stopping of the leaking of waste waters into the lakes and their pollutions.