Carcasses of protected migrant birds discovered in Malta
The annual bird guard camp which is organised by the German-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) with assistance from IAR Malta commenced earlier this week. Owing to the weather the migration is not yet in full swing and birds are flocking in in small numbers.
Groups of two and three CABS members are guarding vantage points and hot spots known for notorious hunting. The guards patrol in various parts of the island according to the weather forecast.
One of the guard groups which was on duty in the north of Malta today discovered the corpses of numerous dead migrant birds shot by poachers. In all seven freshly-shot Bee-eaters, two Swifts, a Sardinian Warbler and the remains of two Marsh Harriers were found. All these species are strictly protected on Malta. In addition to these a number of corpses of several racing pigeons were found.
The birds were at the bottom of a defensive ditch, some five metres deep, constructed by the British in the 19th Century. In this area hunters had been observed on several occasions in the past few days shooting at protected species. Some of these incidents were also filmed by a CABS patrol. The video material and the dead birds were handed over to the ALE, the Malta environmental police unit. Criminal proceedings are being initiated.
Following the illegal hunting CABS members searched some 200 metres of the stretch of the densely overgrown and often almost penetrable ditch. Axel Hirschfeld from CABS who is responsible for the operation in Malta said they believe that many more dead birds could be found in the ditch but to search and reach the rest of the fortifications will only be possible with the help of professional climbing equipment.
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter has been operating in Malta since 9 September in the framework of their autumn bird protection camp Operation Safe Voyage. During this year's bird guard camp CABS has six teams patrolling the countryside each day. As in previous year the groups are working very closely with the ALE.
Although autumn bird migration is still far from its peak, the volunteer conservationists have already recorded numerous violations of Maltese Hunting Law and the European bird protection guidelines. These include the shooting at or killing of birds of prey, Swallows, Swifts, Bee-Eaters and other small song birds. Other offences registered are the use of electronic decoy devices and weapons capable of firing more than three shots in succession. Illegal hunting has also been observed taking place after 23:00 hrs and on Sunday afternoon.
During the past two weeks IAR Malta received four reports from pleasure crafts with holidaymakers on board of illegal shooting at sea in the North of Malta. On two occasions the reports stated that night herons and grey herons were shot at. On both occasions the flocks consisted of 16 night herons and 11 grey herons respectively.