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Northern farmer detained on suspicion of poisoning rare eagle, other wildlife

Rangers find 20 carcasses near Kadita in Galilee, suspect deliberate poisoning with pesticide

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

The body of a white-tailed eagle, suspected of having been poisoned to death, near Kadita in the Upper Galilee, northern Israel, July 27, 2021. (Guy Zaharoni, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)
The body of a white-tailed eagle, suspected of having been poisoned to death, near Kadita in the Upper Galilee, northern Israel, July 27, 2021. (Guy Zaharoni, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

A northern Israeli farmer was detained for questioning Tuesday on suspicion of having used a pesticide to deliberately poison some 20 wild animals and causing the poisoning of a rare and endangered white-tailed eagle.

The carcasses of jackals, foxes and hedgehogs were found by rangers from the Israel Nature and Parks Authority near Kadita in the central Galilee.

The rangers were scouring the area for further carcasses and for evidence of what caused their deaths.

The INPA said the poisoning of wildlife, whether deliberate or not, is against the law and is responsible for the extinction of many species — especially birds of prey — since the 1950s, among them vultures in the Galilee and the Golan Heights.

In a statement, INPA head Shaul Goldstein said that there would be no solution to the problem until heavy fines are imposed.

A jackal poisoned to death near Kadita in the Upper Galilee, northern Israel, July 27, 2021. (Guy Zaharoni, Israel Nature and Parks Authority)

The Society for the Protection of Nature wrote Tuesday to Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg urging her to push ahead with an amendment to wildlife protection law that increases the punishment for poisoning and strengthens enforcement.

A draft amendment was published last October in the wake of the poisoning of ten vultures on the Golan Heights, only two of which survived. It was released for public consultation but was never discussed by the Ministerial Committee on Legislation.

The amendment prohibits the use of poison and pesticides in circumstances where there is a risk of harm to a harmless wild animals, widens the definition of “damage to a wild animal,” holds responsible the owner of the land where the poison is dispersed, not just the worker who carried it out, and calls for three levels of punishment.

Poisoning caused the death of 40-70 percent of eagles in Israel between 2001 and 2015, the SPNI said. (The higher figure includes deaths where poisoning was suspected but not definitively proved.)

The birds ingest the poison used to kill other animals that threaten livestock.

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