Millions of migrating birds are illegally shot down as they fly over Malta each year. International Animal Rescue joined the campaign to end this indiscriminate slaughter in 1990 and lobbies at a national and European level for greater bird protection.
Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, runs a bird rehabilitation hospital in Valleta. Injured species that he has nursed back to health include honey buzzards, hobbies, kestrels and short eared owls, as well as familiar garden songbirds. Once their wounds have healed, rescued birds are released back into the wild.
Bird guards recruited and trained by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) are based in Malta every spring and autumn to monitor migration and record and report any illegal shooting or trapping. The operations are run in close cooperation with International Animal Rescue in Malta and the Administrative Law Enforcement Section of the police. A control room is set up and manned day and night, and the police are alerted to any illegal activity identified by the bird guards so that their patrols can respond swiftly and effectively. Conservationists come from all over Europe and some from even further afield to take part in the camps. Volunteers are equipped with binoculars and video cameras to record evidence of illegal activities.CABS also organises bird protection camps in Italy, Cyprus and Germany which save the lives of thousands of birds every year.
Since joining the EU in 2004, the Maltese government has shown a determination to stamp out illegal hunting on the island. In an effort to control the illegal shooting, the Administrative Law Enforcement department (ALE) was set up - a team of more than 30 officers dedicated to fighting wildlife crime. International Animal Rescue has donated speedboats, boat engines and other equipment to the ALE to help them clamp down on illegal shooting at sea. Enforcement on land and at sea is now vastly improved and we continue to support local efforts to stamp out all illegal shooting and trapping activities.
As one of the ten candidate countries for accession to the European Union in 2004, Malta had to work hard to bring its position on environmental and animal welfare issues into line with other countries. Thanks to the EU, for the first time in its history Malta now has animal welfare legislation in place. One of the issues hotly debated both in Malta and in Brussels was the hunting of birds. Regrettably, during negotiations the government obtained special concessions for the hunters, one of which allowed the spring shooting of quail and turtle doves and the trapping of songbirds. However in spring 2008 the European Court of Justice introduced a ban on these activities in spring to protect birds during the mating and breeding season.