Damning evidence of rampant persecution of protected bird species in Malta
The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), International Animal Rescue’s campaign partners in Malta, today published comprehensive video material and initial data on poaching during the spring hunting season as registered by volunteers participating in Operation Skyfall which ended on Monday.
A total of more than 590 contraventions of hunting and nature protection legislation were recorded by the 20 international Bird Guards, including the shooting of protected birds of prey, herons and cuckoos, bird trapping with mist nets, clap nets and cage traps, the illegal use of electronic decoy devices, hunting with automatic weapons, hunting on main roads and in other public areas as well as some 496 breaches of the afternoon and Sunday hunting curfew. In follow-up operations by the police and MEPA (Malta Environmental & Planning Authority), a total of 32 live birds (20 Turtle Doves, 5 Quails, 2 Little Stints, 1 Robin, 1 Nightjar and a Cuckoo) and 9 shot protected birds (6 Marsh Harriers, a Montagu´s Harrier, a falcon and a cuckoo) were seized. “Our data show that, as before, protected migrant bird species are still being persecuted in large numbers on Malta and Gozo” states CABS President Heinz Schwarze. “Politicians or hunting functionaries who claim otherwise are either deliberately minimising the problem or are living on another planet”.
Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, added: “It is deeply depressing to learn that there has been no let up in the illegal activities of the hunters and trappers – indeed, if anything the situation has become worse than ever.”
On the Ta’ Cenc Plateau on Gozo, where CABS and the Foundation Pro-Biodiversity teams monitored private property on behalf of the landowner, nine hunters were invited to leave the area by the Bird Guards. In a random search of the 150 hectare area trapping paraphernalia, including clap net mechanisms and leaking car batteries for electronic decoys, were removed. The response from local people, tourists and hotel guests, who were able to enjoy the natural beauty of the garrique and its flora and fauna without constant hunting activity, was overwhelmingly positive.
The CABS video material is now available for viewing on YouTube here.
It includes, amongst other incidents, a hunter collecting a shot Little Egret near Mellieha during the Sunday curfew and subsequently fleeing with the bird from a CABS team. Also on camera are the shooting down of an endangered Montagu’s Harrier near Mtahleb, a Little Egret with gunshot injuries and the rescue of a shot Red-footed Falcon at Salina. The video also shows ALE officers removing illegal mist nets and cage traps in Ta´ Baldu, Selmun and Bingemma as well as the closing down of several large clap net installations on Gozo. On Sunday morning 24 April, in the course of their monitoring of a trapping site on Gozo, a CABS team filmed a family outing with a difference. At about 9.00 am a man appeared with a young boy, some eight years old or younger, and activated both his clap nets. The police, alerted by CABS, seized the nets and, with the help of the vehicle number plate recorded by the team, identified the offender. He is to be charged with illegal trapping.
The film material, together with a comprehensive evaluation report on observations made during this year’s spring hunting season, will be sent to the European Commission and the Government in Valletta. Last week a European Commission spokesperson announced in the press that reports submitted by CABS, BirdLife Malta and the Maltese Government will be taken into account when judging the validity of the derogation to the bird protection guidelines applied by Malta this spring.