Snipers wanted to hunt Spain’s Green-Feathered Terror

Environment experts have called for teams of snipers to patrol parks in Spain to rid them of pesky parakeets.

Snipers wanted to hunt Spain’s Green-Feathered Terror
An estimated 30,000 parakeets live in Malaga alone. Photo: AFP

For some they are a cute, colourful, chatty addition to park life but to others they are a noisy parasite whose vast numbers overshadow quieter native fauna and threaten to destabilize the ecosystem.

What is in no doubt is that the population of wild parakeets in Spain has soared to uncontrollable numbers since they were first introduced to Spain as pets in the 1970s.

They first arrived from South America in cages to be kept as pets in cages but after being released or allowed to escape into the wild they have taken up residents in parks and green spaces in cities across Spain, competing for food and habitat with pigeons, sparrow, owls and woodpeckers.

Environmental experts in Malaga, home to one of the largest colonies of the bright green and grey-breasted birds, have now proposed that the best way to control their population is by sending teams of snipers to shoot them down.

A panel pf experts at an environmental forum at Malaga’s UNED university last week came up with recommendations to control the population, estimated at 30,000 in Malaga alone.

Classified as an invasive species, Spanish authorities are allowed to take measures to cull them, and in 2011 sales of the bird were banned in the country in the hope of preventing more from finding their way into the wild.

Previous attempts at population control have been tried in various parts of Spain over the years, but with little success.

READ MORE: Pets or pests? Quaker parrots invade Madrid parks

 A team in Zaragoza has been climbing up to the nests and piercing eggs with a very fine needle and leaving them there to deceive the adults into thinking they were viable when they weren’t, had little effect.

And destroying nests only served to move the colony on to nearby areas.

The birds which originate from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia, build communal nests that weigh up to 50 kilos (110 pounds), mostly in trees – they favour cedars – but also in electric pylons.   

In order to do so, the parrots tear thousands of branches off trees, at times leaving them nearly bare.

The birds have even been blamed for pushing an endangered species of bats closer to extinction. Scientists discovered that the birds were responsible for attacking the greater noctule bat, the largest bat in Europe, pulling the winged mammals from their holes to take over their nesting sites.

Trapping parakeets is no longer a viable option for population as they now exist in such vast numbers.

Dailos Hernández-Brito, researcher at the Biological Station of Doñana and on the panel at the UNED forum told Spanish news agency EFE that shooting the birds using trained snipers was the most effective method of culling the invader species.

But animals rights party PACMA as well as left wind Podemos have openly criticised the plan, insisting that trapping and caging the birds would be a more ethical solution.


READ ALSO: Archers to the rescue in Madrid as boars invade urban areas



Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.