Bird guards pay for police protection in Malta
The annual bird guard camp run by German group CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter) with support from International Animal Rescue started on 10 September in Malta. As with a local bird group which started their camp a few days earlier, the teams are having to pay the police for extra security during the camp.
This was revealed in a joint statement by the two organisations: they welcomed the authorities' confirmation that police officers on extra duties would be assigned to both camps to ensure the security of the bird guards and bird watchers, who have faced many attacks in the past.
Some weeks ago CABS and BirdLife Malta requested extra police officers on duty, against payment by these organisations, after an escalation of violence against their members during the camp. Several were acts of vandalism on cars and attacks on individuals. These included the windscreen of a Raptor Camp car blasted with a shotgun while parked 20 metres from a children's playground; rocks thrown at volunteers and two volunteers beaten up in Dingli. To date only the two aggressors who assaulted BirdLife volunteers in Dingli have been convicted, thanks to video evidence of the attack gathered and presented by the group.
Max Farrugia, International Animal Rescue's Chairperson in Malta, said it is a shame that local and foreign voluntary NGOs have to pay for their own security while protecting European heritage. If the police who will be detailed with the groups involved are to be paid extra, the state should bear the burden of these expenses and not the NGOs. After all, the groups are doing a job which should be done by the police. It is the duty of the Commissioner of the police to see that the law is not being broken. He added that, although they are being asked to pay for their security, the volunteers are absolutely determined to protect the species on migration. The camps' organisers had no other way of protecting themselves other than to ask for police against payment.
Following a sudden change in the weather during the last two days, reports of illegal hunting were received by International Animal Rescue from the Birzebbugia Hal Far and Marsaxlokk areas. Most of the species seen and shot during migration were herons. At the moment there are nearly seventy bird guards and watchers in Malta from ten different European countries. The bird guards from CABS will remain on the island until 26 September when the camp ends.