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        New legislation threatens wildlife conservation in Poland
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        New legislation threatens wildlife conservation in Poland
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        New legislation threatens wildlife conservation in Poland
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In April 2018 a new Hunting Law (Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland, 30 March 2018, No. 651) entered into effect in Poland. Poland is one of the last four countries in the EU (in addition to Croatia, Malta and Cyprus) that do not regulate the use of toxic lead ammunition. Each year 400–640 t of lead are introduced into the Polish environment (Niech Żyją, 22 January 2017, http://niechzyja.pl/dokumenty/uwagi-do-zmiany-prawa-lowieckiego-2015.pdf; Kitowski et al., 2017, Ambio, 46, 825–841). Consequently, high concentrations of lead are found in Polish raptors that consume wounded game species or carrion (Komosa & Kitowski, 2008, Ecological Chemistry and Engineering S, 15, 349–358; Kitowski et al., 2017, op. cit.). The new Hunting Law has not enacted a ban on lead ammunition in any habitat, even in wetlands. There is still no obligation to register animals embedded with lead ammunition that are not recovered. Attempts to ban lead ammunition in Poland so far have been unsuccessful, even though in 2013 Parliament declared that lead ammunition would be banned from hunting shoots on wetlands by 2015 (Polish Parliament 2017, 24 October 2017; http://sejm.gov.pl/sejm7.nsf/InterpelacjaTresc.xsp?key=02849767).

The new Hunting Law ignores current population trends and the status of game birds because cultivation of hunting traditions was considered an important factor in placing individual bird species on the list of game animals that can be legally hunted. This opens up the possibility of unlimited exploitation of species whose numbers are decreasing at an alarming rate in Poland. This applies in particular to the hazel grouse Bonasa bonasia (population 15,000–20,000 pairs in Poland) and Eurasian teal Anas crecca (population 1,300–1,700 pairs; Chodkiewicz et al., 2015, Ornis Polonica, 56, 149–189). Hunters have already greatly reduced the western capercaillie Tetrao urogallus (population 400–450 adults) and black grouse Lyrurus tetrix (population 250–300 pairs), which, despite being protected since 1995, are Critically Endangered species in Poland (Mitrus & Zbyryt, 2015, Ornis Polonica, 56, 309–327).

Although the new Hunting Law prohibits group hunting in national parks, the Act of 11 March 2004 (amended in July 2017; Journal of Laws of the Republic of Poland, 9 August 2017, No. 1521) on the protection of animal health and the control of infectious diseases in animals legalized this practice within national parks and nature reserves under the pretense of combating African Swine Fever (Pejsak & Woźniakowski, 2017, Życie Weterynaryjne, 92, 648–651). However, group hunting can contribute to the spread of this disease (Pejsak & Woźniakowski, 2017, op. cit.).

The Polish Hunter Association (Polski Związek Łowiecki) oversees hunting activities de facto and de jure in Poland. The Association is connected with political and financial elites, and many powerful representatives of the media and business are members. The lobbying centre for the Association within the Polish Parliament (the Parliamentary Team on Culture and Tradition of Hunting) includes 32 deputies and three senators. The strong position of the Association in Parliament makes it difficult to change regulations in favour of wildlife conservation.