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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

IAR applauds naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham for stand against illegal hunting in Malta.

IAR has expressed full support for the stand taken by naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham against the illegal trapping and shooting of birds in Malta.

The BBC presenter, who is making a film about Malta’s spring hunting of migrating birds, was charged with assault and trespass after confronting hunters he believed had illegally trapped wild birds. 

Packham  was served with a court summons to appear in the Gozo courthouse on 20 April to face charges that he had assaulted two trappers while he was on the island. Packman declared that he was completely innocent of these charges and tweeted: "You point out suspected criminals to the police...and you end up in court!" 

However, at the hearing the Court decided in favour of Packham and found no truth in police claims that he had manhandled the trappers. The Court was shown videos which proved that in fact Packham had himself been attacked by the trappers. The Magistrate on duty also remarked that journalists should be protected when they are trying to carry out their work. 

IAR Chief Executive Alan Knight said: “Chris Packham is a passionate and committed wildlife expert and bird conservationist and we heartily applaud the stand he is taking against illegal shooting and trapping in Malta.  “During the first days of the spring hunting and trapping season, the law was broken repeatedly almost every day and the year is already looking set to be one of the worst in terms of illegal activity on the island. How ironic that the Malta government should be in dispute with the EU over the issue at the very time when it holds the EU Presidency!”

With elections looming in Malta in the coming months, the government chose to declare the spring hunting and trapping season open as in previous years, in spite of a dispute over it with the EU. Local and foreign bird protection groups have been scouring the Malta countryside in an attempt to keep illegal activity to a minimum. Monitors reported a number of cases to the police on various parts of the Maltese islands.     

The open season closed on 14 April and anyone hunting after that date was doing so illegally. Bird activists, both local and foriegn, have been stationed all over the island to protect migrating birds as much as possible. Following reports by the group Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) in a valley in the south of Malta, a poacher was arrested and his shotgun was confiscated.  The poacher had been observed by CABS activists and filmed hunting illegally on two separate days. 

Shots have been heard from various notorious areas since the closure of the hunting season. The island of Gozo was one of the worst areas for illegal hunting. Some of the poachers were filmed wearing skull masks to avoid identification when being filmed by bird protection monitors. One poacher was filmed wearing a white skull mask while removing his clap net, together with an accomplice whose face was also masked.

Max Farrugia, Chairman of IAR Malta, said: “During the open season enforcement in our country was minimal – definitely the poorest it’s been in recent years. Action was only taken by the police when they received reports from birdwatchers and bird protection groups.  “Chris Packham reported illegal hunting to the police but then found himself accused instead of the criminals. International Animal Rescue Malta  fully supports his stance on this issue. Knowing how certain hunters and trappers behave in our countryside and how they react to any foreigner who draws attention to illegal hunting, Chris Packham’s mistreatment comes as no surprise. Thankfully he has been cleared in Court and is free to continue exposing the shocking slaughter of migrating birds in Malta.”