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Rampant illegal hunting in Gozo

The migration season started with large numbers of bangs and shots owing to the sudden change in the weather in the early days of September. Large flock of birds flew over Malta, particularly birds of prey and herons and flamingos. A number of these were shot down and the police also made some arrests but still the promised enforcement is lacking, particularly during the week.

It seems that this year the shooters are concentrating their hunting activities much more on Gozo, the sister island, than on Malta, because on Gozo enforcement leaves much to be desired. During a spell of good weather when migration was less than normal a jogger reported that a night heron had been shot down. The jogger, Ms Anastasi, remained next to the bird until members of the ALE (wildlife police department) arrived on site. She was informed that the bird would be taken to the quarantine section of the department where all injured birds are kept. In a comment on Facebook Ms Anastasi made this appeal: “If you do come across an injured bird or animal, just call the police on 112 or the Animal Welfare Ambulance on 7996 9918 and they will help you. It doesn’t take much and it gives great satisfaction knowing that you have played a part in saving a life. Please do not turn a blind eye.”

News continued pouring in from Gozo and yesterday sources next to the police stated that a man had been arrested and was being questioned after a considerable number of stuffed protected birds were found in his residence in Xaghra, Gozo.

The police raided the house following a tip-off. They found 80 undeclared stuffed protected birds in his collection and a number of others were also found in a freezer. According to the same source they included flamingos, ospreys, kites and storks. MEPA Environment officials are compiling a list of the finds.

Following these incidents, a car which is being used by a group of researchers working on the Malta Seabirds project was shot at several times where it was parked in Gozo. This car is well known to the hunters because it is being used frequently. The Malta Seabird Project is funded under the EU Life project. The researchers heard the shots but because they were at the edge of the cliff quite far away from their car they did not recognise the person shooting. They realised that their car had been shot at when they returned about two hours later. Apart from the marks from the lead pellets the car also had a number of dents.

The Bird camps on Malta and Gozo started earlier this month. The Birdlife camp commenced a week ago while the CABS camp started on Friday 13 September. On Sunday shortly after midday two poachers shot down a strictly protected Black stork in the Valley of San Blas where lot of shooting takes place. The bird was still alive when it was recovered but died soon after it was handed to the Gozo Police Patrol which was called to the scene. The bird was a juvenile born only a few months ago and was on its first migration to its wintering quarters in Africa. The report was triggered by a witness who saw the shooting and reported the case. Since the arrival of CABS on Gozo the patrols in Gozo have been beefed up and are working hand in hand with the CABS camp guards. A spokesman for CABS said they were grateful to the person who alerted the guards and also to the prompt intervention of the Gozo Police because such action is important to curb illegal hunting.

The illegal shooting which took place on Saturday was followed by a number of illegal killings of protected species the following day on the north islands. Observers saw hunters killing honey buzzards in the Buskett Area, whilst other reports of shooting at birds of prey were received from various areas in the south of Malta. CABS guards filmed a number of attempts to kill protected species and also reported a trapper in the Mgarr area to the police . Trapping is allowed at this time of year but the trapper was using illegal clap nets. In all, in a short period of three hours CABS reported six illegalities. The 40 guards from various countries in Europe will be in Malta for the next three weeks.