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An European buzzard (Buteo buteo) suspected of poisoning was brought to us by the Agency for Nature and Forest (ANB) for necropsy. The bird was found alongside pigeon carcasses treated with a blue poison, suggesting that the buzzard had consumed the illegal bait...

Two pigeon carcasses treated with blue dye, also found on the buzzard's talons

The buzzard exhibited several typical symptoms of poisoning by acetylcholinesterase-inhibiting pesticides, including cramped hind legs, a mouth filled with bait indicating acute death, and good nutritional condition without signs of chronic illness. Therefore, the contents of the buzzard's mouth and crop were analyzed for pesticides, revealing the presence of the insecticide carbofuran.

Carbofuran is a potent and broad-spectrum insecticide belonging to the carbamate pesticide class. It disrupts the nervous system of insects by inhibiting the enzyme acetylcholinesterase, leading to excessive stimulation of nerve cells and ultimately causing death. Unfortunately, carbofuran is highly toxic to other animals, including birds, even in small amounts. Moreover, carbofuran remains active in the environment for a long time and can accumulate in food chains, causing prolonged harm to wildlife populations.

A buzzard with cramped hind legs, clinging to vegetation, is a typical sight in birds that die very acutely due to intoxication

A previous study has already demonstrated the illegal use of carbofuran in Flanders for predator poisoning (Garmyn et al., 2021), despite its general ban in the EU. Yet, buzzards and other birds of prey are often unintended victims of poisoning. Baits treated with poison are originally aimed at carnivores like foxes and mustelids but are frequently found by overflying birds of prey. Secondary intoxication of buzzards is also possible through the consumption of already poisoned carnivores that have died. Next to leading to immediate death, poisoning can also increase susceptibility to trauma and predation.

The ongoing illegal poisoning of wildlife remains a concerning issue...

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