Poppy Farmers Struggle to Get Rid of “Opium-Addicted” Swans

A family of poppy farmers in Slovakia has been having trouble getting rid of hundreds of swans that have become addicted to poppy seeds and sometimes even overdose on them.

Poppy farmers near the Slovakian town of Komarno first reported the presence of swans in their fields back in February. It is believed that they were originally attracted by the large puddles of water that formed in the area, but after pecking at the flowers all day, many of them became addicted to the opium-containing seeds and refused to leave. Back in May, Slovakian media reported that around 200 swans had made a poppy field near Komarno their home, causing around €10,000 in damages to the flowers and getting so high on the natural narcotic that many of them couldn’t even fly anymore.

Photo: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

“They came gradually. We counted more than 200 swans here,” farmer Balints Pam told reporters, adding that in all his years planting poppies, he had never seen anything like it.

Swans are usually crazy about rapeseed, and farmers believe that they confused the poppies with their preferred delicacy, which not only made them addicted, but caused serious health issues. Apparently, because the large water birds have an insatiable appetite, several dozen of them have already overdosed on poppy seeds, while many others lost their capacity for flight, making them easy targets for predators.

Photo: Va Lia/Unsplash

After suffering serious damage to their crops, poppy fields have been trying to get rid of the swans for a while now, but the addicted birds refuse to relocate. Because swans have a protected status in Slovakia, farmers are not allowed to hunt or even disturb the birds, even if they are on their property.

“In preparation for next season, the farmer should apply for an exception to be allowed to scare away the protected birds. The swans that are already there can only be scared away with bare hands. At the moment, nothing else can be done,” said Jans Kalavskis, representative of the Slovak State Nature Protection Service.

Animal lovers and volunteers from groups like the Slovak Environmental Protection Agency have been trying to relocate the opium-addicted swans, in an effort to wean them off of poppy seeds, but experts are concerned that they might return to the fields as soon as they have the chance.

A few years back, we also wrote about opium-addicted parrots causing havoc on Indian poppy farms.

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