Hunters test lead-free ammunition to minimize adverse effects on wildlife and human health

On February 29th, ATNatureza promoted testing of lead-free ammunition for hunting managers. Hunters and game  managers were sensitized about the negative consequences of the use of lead ammunition for necrophagous species (such as vultures) and in the quality of hunt meat, which is subsequently consumed.

Participants received information provided by an ammunition specialist, who explained the technical differences between conventional lead ammunition and alternative ammunition of the new generation, consisting of alternative metal alloys, free from that heavy metal. These ammunitions, in addition to being equally effective, or even superior, in terms of ballistic behaviour, have the advantage of not fragmenting when striking the hunting piece. “This is one of the fundamental differences between the two types of ammunition: lead ammunition fragment when it hits the target, and tests carried out in a controlled environment have shown that, on average, lead projectiles lose about 23% of their weight after the collision, while the new generation ammunition remains intact ”, said Dr. Rui Pereira (CACICAMBRA), who collaborated on this experience. "It is also a way of promoting the full use of meat, since there is no contamination of the meat with this type of projectiles, instead of what occurs with lead".

Workshop    shoot with new ammunition


The loss that occurs in the lead projectiles corresponds to small fragments that are usually incorporated in the hunting piece, contaminating the meat in the area of the projectile's path. This meat should not be consumed, either by humans or by wildlife, given the high toxicity of this heavy metal. These particles, once ingested, are degraded and absorbed into the bloodstream, are bio-accumulative and can develop levels of acute toxicity that can cause physiological, behavioural changes and even death.

Information was also conveyed, unknown to many, about the effects that the ingestion of these particles has on necrophagous species (such as vultures), which can feed on uncharged animals or their remains. This problem is well known in aquatic birds, namely anatids. But it is still unknown for this group of species, which are particularly sensitive, as they have high longevity and long life cycles, with late sexual maturity and low productivity, especially in areas where larger game constitutes an important proportion of its food. “Some of the species with necrophagous habits that occur in Portugal, such as the black vulture, the Egyptian vulture and the imperial eagle, have small populations and are threatened, so minimizing the impact of this threat certainly contributes to its conservation ”Said Carlos Pacheco, a specialist in birds of prey from ATNatureza, the association promoting the project. “In addition to contributing to the conservation of these endangered species, this is also a matter of ensuring the health of those who consume this meat”.

The project

The Anti-poisoning project in the Mediterranean is coordinated by the Vulture Conservation Foundation (VCF) LINK, with the support of the MAVA Foundation (LINK), with the aim of reducing mortality in vultures and other necrophagous and predatory species, caused by the illegal use of poisons, but also by indirect poisoning, caused by the use of leaded ammunition or certain veterinary drugs. The actions of the project are mainly carried out in the regions where these problems have more expression, such as the Balkans (Albania, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Serbia), Portugal, Spain and some countries in North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt).

One of the actions is to establish pilot areas where it is intended to sensitize hunters and game managers to the problem of lead in the environment, particularly when ingested by wild fauna species and also to the inherent risks human health itself, caused by the ingestion of lead particles.

In this intervention, the participants also had the opportunity to test, in practice, these new generation ammunition at the Campo de Tiro do Douro Sul, in Tarouca (

At the end of the tests, ammunition was distributed to the participants, which will be tested by them in the practice of the hunting act. We look forward to their evaluation of the behaviour and effectiveness of the ammunition and participation in the experiment!


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