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Illegal glue traps to tempt birds discovered along Brussels canal

13:46 09/06/2023

Traps to capture songbirds such as the goldfinch have been dismantled by Brussels police, following an alert from a birdwatcher and member of the Royal Belgian League for the Protection of Birds walking along the Brussels-Vilvoorde canal.

The glue trap found on the Chaussée de Vilvoorde consisted of a small artificial lake surrounded by cereal bars for birds and little branches covered with glue – a contraption banned since 1979.

Indeed, the only reason birds can be caught today is for migration studies. And in these situations, the birds, after being tagged and microchipped, are immediately released.

Here, the aim of the cage, an ancient practice particularly in Mediterranean countries, is to capture a bird - ideally with coloured plumes and a nice singing voice - without killing it, to put it in a cage, either to sell or to eat, although anyone using glue risks damaging the bird and its feathers.

“In the past, there were contests that rewarded the bird with the best voice,” Anne Weiserbs, a biologist at Ixelles-based nature protection group Natagora said. “This case is completely disgusting and extremely cruel.”

For the LRBPO’s biodiversity specialist Adrien Chevalier, “here, the targeted birds - elegant goldfinches - seem too small to be eaten. I think they were set to go in a cage.”

The traps raised concern that poaching was threatening Belgium once more. However, Didier Vangeluwe, ornithologist at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, disagrees.

“Belgium was internationally renowned for the number of goldfinches, siskins (a small finch) and bullfinches that were captured by tendering [a hunting technique to trap birds using leafless branches coated in glue, prohibited in Belgium since 1995]," he said.

"But since then, the control services have done a remarkable job. There are almost no more cases of tendering at present. I have not heard of this for years."

Meanwhile, the fact that the traps were found in Brussels has surprised Flemish bird protection organisation Vogelbescherming Vlaanderen. “Normally it is the peripheral zones, that are very rural with many open spaces that are the ones seen as ideal to catch birds, such as Limburg province, the Campine and East Flanders,” said the group’s spokesperson Niels Luyten.

“But perhaps this place near Brussels to fish for goldfinches has been chosen because a goldfinch really likes going into these rough vacant plots along the canal.”

Written by Liz Newmark