, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 264–272 | Cite as

Pesticide abuse in Europe: effects on the Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) population in Spain

  • Mauro Hernández
  • Antoni Margalida


A survey was carried out to investigate incidents of pesticide poisoning of the Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) in Spain during the period 1990–2006. A total of 241 incidents affecting 464 vultures were investigated to establish their causes: approved use, misuse, or deliberate abuse. Other factors studied were compounds, other species affected by the incident, the mode of application, spatial and temporal variation and reasons for the pesticide abuse involved. Approved use was responsible for only a minor fraction (1.3%) of the incidents whereas up to 98% of the investigated incidents were intentional poisonings. Pesticide mortality mainly affects adult individuals (83%) and the implications of this for population dynamics could be important. Eleven different compounds were involved in these incidents although three compounds accounted for up to 88% of the poisoning cases: carbofuran, aldicarb, and strychnine. Most of the pesticide kills seem to be related to the illegal control of predators. Given the minor impact of labeled-use pesticides, currently approved pesticide use does not represent a problem for the Cinereous vulture. Nevertheless, availability of highly toxic pesticides may exacerbate illegal use. As a few compounds, mainly granular insecticides, are responsible for most pesticide kills, stronger regulation and control of these in the EU could result in a decrease of mortality related to pesticide abuse in several endangered species without a significant effect on agriculture.


Cinereous vulture Conservation Poisoning Carbamates Spain 



Thanks to V. García Matarranz, J. Sánchez, R. Sánchez, M. Fernández, J. Caballero, F. Robles, J. A. Blanco, J. Guzmán, E. Morales, J. Panadero, C. Sánchez, J. J. Sánchez, E. Tewes, Fondo para la Conservación del Buitre Negro, C. Segovia, Asociación Andalus and GREFA for data provided for this study and two anonymous reviewers for comments that improved this manuscript. We also thank J. Mayol, J. Muntaner, F. de Pablo, A. Aranda, V. Diez, J. P. Castaño, J. M. Blanco, L. Prada, F. Sánchez, N. González, F. de la Orden, F. Jiménez, J. I. Mosqueda, Á. Sánchez, J. Caldera, M. J. Palacios, J. I. Molina, M. Diez-del Pozo, O. Alarcia, R. Arenas, R. Cadenas, S. Centenera, B. Heredia, L. M. González, personal of the Wildlife Services of Autonomous Communities of Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Andalucía and Balearic Islands, SEPRONA, and the Grupo de Trabajo de Ecotoxicología for additional data provided.


  1. Allen GT, Veatch JK, Stroud RK, Vendel CG, Poppenga RH, Thompson L, Shafer JA, Braselton WE (1996) Winter poisoning of coyotes and raptors with furadan-laced carcass baits. J Wildl Dis 32:385–389Google Scholar
  2. Antoniou V, Zantapoulus N, Skartsi D, Tsoukali-Papadopoulou H (1996) Pesticide poisoning of animals of wild fauna. Vet Human Toxicol 38:212–213Google Scholar
  3. Barnett EA, Fletcher MR, Hunter K, Sharp EA (2002) Pesticide poisoning of animals 2000: investigations in suspected incidents in the United Kingdom. Report of the Environmental Panel of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides UKGoogle Scholar
  4. Bird Life International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status. Bird Life International Conservation Series No. 12 CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  5. Bowerman WW, Best DA, Giesy OP, Shieldcastle MC, Meyer MW, Postupalsky S, Sikarskie JG (2003) Associations between regional differences in polychlorinated biphenyls and dichloro-diphenyl-dichloro-ethylene in blood of nestling bald eagles and reproductive productivity. Environ Toxicol Chem 22:371–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Council Directive 91/414/EEC (1991) Directiva del Consejo del 15 de Julio de 1991 relativa a la comercialización de productos fitosanitarios. DOUE L 230:1–14Google Scholar
  7. De Snoo GR, Scheidegger NMI, de Jong FMW (1999) Vertebrate wildlife incidents with pesticides: a European survey. Pest Manag Sci 55:47–54Google Scholar
  8. DOCE 2003/199/CE (2003) Directiva del Consejo del 18 de marzo relativa a la no inclusión del Aldicarb en el Anexo I de la Directiva 91/414/CEE y a la retirada de las autorizaciones de los productos fitosanitarios que contengan esta sustancia activa. DOUE 76:21–24Google Scholar
  9. Directive 98/8/EC (1998) del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo de 16 de febrero de 1998 relativa a la comercialización de pesticidas. DOCE L 123:1–70Google Scholar
  10. Donázar JA, Blanco G, Hiraldo F, Sotolargo E, Oria J (2002) Effects of forestry and other land-use practices on the conservation of Cinereous vultures. Ecol Appl 12:1445–1456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elliott GD, Avery MI (1991) A review of reports of Buzzard persecutions 1975–89. Bird Study 38:52–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Elliott JE, Langelier KM, Mineau P, Wilson LK (1996) Poisoning of bald eagles and Red-tailed hawks by carbofuran and fensulphothion un the Fraser Delta of British Columbia Canada. J Wildl Dis 32:486–491Google Scholar
  13. Fry DM, Wilson BW, Ottum ND, Yamamoto JT, Stein RW, Seiber JN, McChesney MM, Richardson EM (1998) Radiotelemetry and GIS computer modelling as tools for analysis of exposure to organophosphate pesticides in Red-tailed Hawks. In: Fagerstone LK (ed) Radiotelemetry applications for wildlife toxicology fields studies. Brewer SETAC Press, USA, pp 67–83Google Scholar
  14. González LM, Margalida A, Mañosa S, Sánchez R, Oria R, Molina JI, Aranda A, Caldera J, Prada L (2007) Causes and spatio-temporal variations of non-natural mortality in the Vulnerable Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila adalberti) during a recovery period. Oryx 41:495–502Google Scholar
  15. Grier JW (1974) Reproduction organochlorines and mercury in northwestern Ontario bald eagles. Can Field-Nat 88:469–475Google Scholar
  16. Guitart R, Mañosa S, Guerrero X, Mateo R (1999) Animal poisonings: the 10-year experience of a veterinary analytical Toxicology laboratory. Vet Human Toxicol 41:331–335Google Scholar
  17. Helander B, Olsson A, Bignert A, Asplund L, Litzen K (2002) The role of DDE, PCB coplanar, PCB and eggshell parameters for reproduction in the White-tailed Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in Sweden. Ambio 31:386–403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Henny CJ, Kolbe EJ, Hill EF, Blus LJ (1987) Case histories of Bald eagles and other raptors killed by organophosphorus insecticides topically applied to livestock. J Wildl Dis 23:292–295Google Scholar
  19. Hernández M (2006) Informe anual sobre el grado de intoxicación de las especies del Catálogo Nacional de Especies Amenazadas. Technical Report Madrid: TRAGSA/Ministerio de Medio AmbienteGoogle Scholar
  20. Hintze J (2001) NCSS and PASS Number cruncher statistical system. Kaysville, UtahGoogle Scholar
  21. Hooper MJ, Detrich PJ, Weisskopf CP, Wilson BW (1989) Organophosphorous insecticide exposure in hawks inhabiting orchards during winter dormant-spraying. Bull Environ Toxicol 42:651–659CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mañosa S, Mateo R, Freixa C, Guitart R (2003) Persistent organochlorine contaminants in eggs from Northern Goshawk and Eurasian Buzzard from Northeastern Spain Temporal trends related to changes in the diet. Environ Pollut 122:351–359CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Margalida A, García D, Bertran J, Heredia R (2003) Breeding biology and success of the Bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) in the eastern Pyrenees. Ibis 145:244–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Margalida A, González LM, Sánchez R, Oria J, Prada L, Caldera J, Aranda A, Molina JI (2007) A long-term scale study of the breeding biology of Spanish Imperial eagles. J Ornithol 148:309–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Margalida A, Heredia R, Razin M, Hernández M (2008) Sources of variation in mortality of the Bearded vulture Gypaetus barbatus in Europe. Bird Conserv Int 1 (in press)Google Scholar
  26. Martínez-Haro M, Mateo R, Cardiel I, Reglero MM, Guitart R (2005) Intoxicaciones por plaguicidas anticolinesterásicos en fauna cinegética y sus depredadores silvestres In: Jornada Técnica sobre Intoxicaciones y Envenenamientos en Fauna Silvestre y Doméstica: 39–43 AETOX/Universidad de MurciaGoogle Scholar
  27. Meretsky VJ, Snyder NFR, Beissinger SR, Clendenen DA, Wiley JW (2000) Demography of the California Condor: implication for reestablishment. Conserv Biol 14:957–967CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mineau P, Fletcher MR, Glaser LC, Thomas NJ, Brassard C, Wilson LK, Elliott JE, Lyon LA, Henny CJ, Bollinger T, Porter SL (1999) Poisoning of raptors with organophosphorus and carbamate pesticides with emphasis in Canada US and UK. J Raptor Res 33:1–37Google Scholar
  29. Morán-López R, Sánchez JM, Costillo E, Corbacho C, Villegas A (2006) Spatial variation in anthropic and natural factors regulating the breeding success of the Cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) in the SW Iberian Peninsula. Biol Conserv 130:169–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Newton I, Wyllie I (1992) Recovery of sparrow hawk population in relation to declining pesticide contamination. J Appl Ecol 29:476–484CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Noer H, Secher H (1990) Effects of legislative protection on survival rates and status improvements of birds of prey in Denmark. Danish Rev Game Biol 14:1–63Google Scholar
  32. Pain DJ, Burneleau G, Bavoux C, Wyatt C (1999) Levels of polychlorinated biphenyls organochlorine pesticides mercury and lead in relation to shell thickness in Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) eggs from Charente-Maritime France. Environ Pollut 104:61–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Porter SL (1993) Pesticide poisoning in birds of prey. In: Redig PT, Cooper JE, Remple JD, Hunter DB (eds) Raptor Biomedicine. Univ Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp 239–245Google Scholar
  34. Ratcliffe DA (1970) Changes attributable to pesticides in egg breakage frequency and eggshell thickness in some British birds. J Appl Ecol 7:67–115CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Real J, Mañosa S (1997) Demography and conservation of Western European Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus populations. Biol Conserv 79:59–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sánchez JJ (2005) Buitre negro Aegypius monachus. In: Madroño A, González C, Atienza JC (eds) Libro Rojo de las Aves de España. SEO/Bird Life, Madrid, pp 134–138Google Scholar
  37. Sokal RR, Rohlf FJ (1995) Biometry, 2nd edn. Freeman, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  38. Wiemeyer SN, Lamont TG, Bunck CM, Sindelar CR, Gramlich FJ, Fraser JD, Byrd MA (1984) Organochlorine pesticide polychlorobiphenyl and mercury residues in bald eagle eggs—1969–79—and their relationships to shell thinning and reproduction. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 13:529–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Whitfield DP, Fielding AH, McLeod DRA, Haworth PF (2004) Modelling the effects of persecution on the population dynamics of golden eagles in Scotland. Biol Conserv 119:319–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Wobeser G, Bollinger T, Leighton FA, Blakley B, Mineau P (2004) Secondary poisoning of eagles following intentional poisoning of coyote with anticholinesterase pesticides in Western Canada. J Wildl Dis 40:163–172Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratorio Forense de Vida Silvestre (LFVS)Las MatasSpain
  2. 2.Bearded Vulture Study and Protection GroupEl Pont de SuertSpain

Personalised recommendations