During my employment within the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), undertaking research on birds in conflict with agriculture (crop damage and disease spread), aviation (bird strikes) and urban areas (mainly pigeon and starling poo!), I had cause to interact with scientists from many other countries. These included people from Europe and also from Australasia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. Many were facing similar problems, although not necessarily with the same species, and were often undertaking parallel lines of work. I attended one of the biennial Vertebrate Pest Conferences in California and concluded that European pest management scientists would benefit from a European equivalent, helping to improve communication and collaboration, and to avoid duplication and thus save money. These ideas came to fruition in 1997, a year after I took early retirement, when with Defra Central Science Laboratory’s support, the first European Vertebrate Pest Management Conference (EVPMC) was held in York, UK. My idea had been for the conference to be biennial, alternating with the US Vertebrate Pest Conference, in the hope that we on our side of the Atlantic could share experiences with our American colleagues without a clash of meeting schedules.
To my delight, the EVPMCs have continued with conferences in Braunschweig (Germany), Jerusalem (Israel), Parma (Italy), Budapest (Hungary), Reading (UK), Berlin (Germany), Lyon (France) and Turku (Finland). When planning future conferences the International Steering Committee (now chaired by Jo Pelz, who organised the second conference) has tried to bring new countries into the “circuit”. To this end, with my delectation for and frequent visits to southern Spain I contacted Jordi Figuerola, of the Estación de Biología de Doñana in Sevilla, to see if they would be interested in hosting a conference. The response was gratifyingly positive and Jo and I subsequently visited Jordi and Juan Beltrán to discuss requirements. The 10th EVPMC was held at the Facultad de Biología, University of Sevilla, from 21 to 25 September 2015 and attracted over 175 delegates from 35 countries.
The remit of the conferences includes all vertebrates but mammals and birds always predominate. Among these,
rodents and rodenticides and increasing resistance of the former to the latter occupy much conference time. Alien invasive species (AIS) now also figure prominently and the Sevilla conference was no exception, with four of the seven plenary lectures and many of the offered papers addressing issues with IAS. The plenaries addressed how alien birds can establish themselves as IAS (Tim Blackburn), how to decide which species should take priority in attempts to eradicate them (Frank Courchamp), the plethora of alien species in Spain, how to manage them and how to prevent others arriving (Martina Carrete), and lessons on management learned from studies of Feral Pigeons and Monk Parakeets in urban areas in Barcelona (Juan Carlos Senar). The last had some interesting and unexpected findings. For example, densities of both pigeons and parakeets were positively related to the density of people over 65 years old and living alone, a category into which I fit fair and square! This is because these species in Barcelona receive up to 40% of their food as handouts from people (but I emphatically do not feed pigeons or parakeets!). Juan Carlos also provided the quote of the conference: when asked why he used people to monitor the behaviour of his Monk Parakeets in the nest, rather than employ remote sensing devices, he said “there is nothing cheaper than students”!!! This produced peals of laughter, thankfully including from students.
The conference took place in an extremely congenial atmosphere in a bustling but beautiful city (much evening discussion over tapas and various liquid refreshments) with idyllic weather, and big thanks go to Juan Beltrán and Jordi Figuerola and their colleagues, along with the conference sponsors, for making it all happen, and so smoothly. The conference website is: http://www.evpmc.org
During the conference Jo Pelz was busy in his persuading role and was able to announce that the 11th EVPMC will be held in Lithuania in 2017. We wish Algimantas Paulauskas and his team success in their organisation over the next two years.