ALMOST NO GAME LEFT FOR THE HUNTERS
The growth of poaching seems really freezing and it has been causing huge damages to the nature since 2004, the Union of Hunters and Fishermen declares. However, municipal, state and non-governmental organisations are powerless to solve the problem. Bulgarian hunting legislation is 125-years-old, but the current battles of a few lobbies in Parliament, each of which trying to pass its own texts on restructuring the forest and fishing sectors, cast aside the real disorders. Even the Hunting and Game Act adopted in 2002 stipulated that a Hunting Guard Institute be established, but the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has been unable to find BGN30MN for the purpose. In the meantime, more than 80 state forest guards, some of which occupying quite senior posts, have been sanctioned because of poaching.
The forestry board deputy director in Provadia, Mladen Parushev Petrov, was dismissed because of an illegally shot hind in May 2005. His punishment hardly troubled him as only two months later he was appointed in the State Forestry Board in Souvorovo. Administrative sanctions were only imposed on two forest guards in Maglizh because they shot five deer. The sanctions were personally imposed by the head of the National Forestry Administration in Stara Zagora. In Svoge, six poachers were caught at the crime place just before the Christmas holidays. The deputy director of the local forestry board Alexander Slaveykov was among the men who were finally released under the protection of the director. While an investigation is in course, the poachers were excluded from the hunting and fishing Union and were only punished to pay fines. However, statistics reveal that just 7-8% of them have been collected.
This phenomenon is surviving because of hunters and hunting instructors who do not want any rules and laws, Hristo Mihailov, head of the Union of Hunters and Fishermen, said. The hunting act permits the establishment of bands which can register as legal entities and be controlled by the state forestry boards only. These groups fix their membership fees by themselves and are allowed to commit outrages in the Bulgarian forests. According to Hristo Mihailov, they are also a major part of the illegal game meat traffic. There are over 20 elite restaurants in Sofia alone where the expensive delicacy is served, but only two of them provide an invoice and certificate from the sanitary authorities. And in the village of Bulgarski Izvor near Lovech there is also a special slaughterhouse which is supplied by two groups. The business is probably going well since a hare costs about EUR20 in Greece.
It has been a public secret that chalet owners near Malyovitsa, Belmeken and Beli Iskar in the Rila mountain go hunting for wild goats, Hristo Mihailov said. It is a popular practice of the guards of various sites - from gas pipelines and oil installations to gardens and agricultural buildings - to go shooting every time of the year. With their gun possessing licences they break the monotony of their dull shifts with illegal shooting of wild animals. While ordinary hunters are punished for poaching by suspension of their membership in the Hunting and Fishermen Union for three years, guards are only sanctioned to pay fines (if they are caught at all). In 2005, about 400 people were excluded from the union, but most of them joined alternative groups later. Therefore, until the MPs make up their mind about the reform of the forest sector, unpunished looting of the forests goes on.