Milestone in protection of birds of prey

Law enforcement is facilitated, no tolerance for poaching of endangered species

Even today, illegal persecution of birds of prey in Austria is taking on significant proportions; they repeatedly become victims of poisoning or get killed by gunshots – for some species the most documented cause of death. Although every single type of persecution is offense by law, only certain cases find themselves punished, meaning hardly any kill had some sort of legal consequence.  Wildlife crime is generally difficult to prosecute, but to a certain extent, also insufficient investigation possibilities and resources are responsible. Latter ones are mainly determined if it is a criminal offence additional to an administrative one-.  Now, there is a new edict, decided by the ministry of justice, which makes law enforcement clearer and hopefully more efficient.. To what extent, you will find out here.

Kaiseradler in Österreich BirdLife

Legal Situation in Austria

In Austria, hunting and nature conservation laws regulate illegal killing of wildlife. Additional to these administrative offences, persecution can  also be a criminal offence in case of animal cruelty and/ or if a strictly protected species is affected. Later aspect is regulated in the § 181f StGB and can be charged with imprisonment for up to two years, unless it concerns only an “insignificant amount” of the species and therefore means only an “insignificant impact” onto the state of preservation. Because of that, an examination of every single case was necessary so far, to define if a “significant amount” of protected birds have been killed. In the course of this, a time-consuming report by experts was necessary.

The now published edict answers the important question concerning the  “not inconsiderable amounts” in terms of criminal law and intends to ensure a better protection of local wildlife, especially for rare species with a low population, for example the Imperial eagle.  This clarification results in faster and more intense criminal investigation and prosecution efforts. Nevertheless, every case of persecution of birds of prey should result in legal consequences – at least in terms of administrative law.


Criteria and Thresholds

The backbone of the edict, is the clear definition of thresholds for strictly protected species for criminal relevance.  For birds they were elaborated in frame of the PannonEagle LIFE Project by BirdLife Austria in a background study.   The criteria and threshold should ensure a better judgment in cases of illegal persecution and raise the  standard for the assessment of unlawful interference into the population of strictly protected species in Austria. The criteria and thresholds consider population numbers, mortality rate and the state of preservation. They give information about the amount of killed animals, which has a significant effect for the population and offers a solid guideline for the judgment of illegal persecution.

We are proud, that the prosecution of wildlife crime is now to be tightened and that our efforts are paying off!



“In order to fight efficiently and consistent against wildlife crime, a clear guideline is essential and we, BirdLife Austria, welcome this step as an important milestone for the protection of out biodiversity!”

-Dr. Gábor Wichmann, managing director of BirdLife Austria