Outrage over rare birds killed for Italian diners

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The Independent Online

Environmentalists in Serbia were outraged after the chance discovery of a refrigerated container lorry on the border with Croatia containing thousands of small birds apparently destined for restaurants in Italy.

Environmentalists in Serbia were outraged after the chance discovery of a refrigerated container lorry on the border with Croatia containing thousands of small birds apparently destined for restaurants in Italy.

The discovery highlights the degree to which wildlife protection measures, so strict in northern Europe, remain full of holes while trappers continue to kill migrating birds over the Mediterranean and the Balkans.

The birds only came to light after Croatian customs officials at the Sid-Tovarnik crossing - on the motorway connecting Serbia, Croatia and northern Italy - ordered the driver of a lorry bound for Italy to open his truck.

Environmentalists said the trappers may have been acting under the orders of the birds' purchasers in Italy. Many of the birds belonged to some of Europe's scarcer species. Aleksandar Tadic, of the Society for the Protection of Wild Birds, told the Serbian newspaper Politika that it was "obvious our state is not aiming to halt this kind of criminal activity". The cargo was worth tens of thousands of euros - a temptation to many in a country where the average monthly wage is about €200.

Marcus Tanner is Balkans editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting

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