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IAR takes action against illegal bird shooting in Malta

Honey buzzard: victim of illegal hunting in MaltaIAR Malta has been working with German partners CABS (the Committee Against Bird Slaughter) to monitor and record illegal hunting activity since the start of the new shooting season. The two groups are running a bird protection camp attended by volunteers from Italy, Germany, the UK and Malta. This has proved so effective that in the first four days of the camp 23 official complaints were lodged with the Malta police.

Predictably the hunters’ federation is most unhappy about the camp and the presence of the hunt monitors, who are clearly visible in their green anoraks with the words ’Bird Guard’ printed in bright yellow on their backs. At a press conference on 18 September the Federation verbally attacked the German group, calling them spies, and the following day one of the bird protection team was stoned in Manikata but luckily escaped uninjured. The hunters also criticised the Minister of the Environment and the Prime Minister, claiming that he is caving in to the demands of foreigners. However, the Prime Minister had already stated some months ago that he would take action if illegal hunting persisted.

In spite of the Prime Minister’s warnings, the bird protection teams have recorded a serious number of instances of illegal activity. Numerous migrant birds of prey have been killed or injured since the season opened. The range of breaches of the law observed by our eight teams included shots fired after the afternoon curfew at 1500 hours, the use of banned electronic lure devices and the deliberate shooting at migrating birds of prey by several hunters at a time.

Marsh harrier: victim of illegal hunting in MaltaCABS president Heinz Schwarze who is heading the group told journalists that he is amazed how many hunters deliberately and blatantly break the law. He said: "It demonstrates a complete disrespect for the rule of law and a high level of criminal energy." This camp was his first visit to Malta.

On the first Saturday of the camp the Bird Guards witnessed the shooting down of a Marsh Harrier. A day later, in the same area, a juvenile Honey Buzzard was shot out of the sky in front of a CABS field team. "The shooting down took place only minutes after a police mobile patrol had vacated their observation point. As the raptor fell, our team ran towards the culprit in order to be able to identify him later," reports Schwarze. When the hunter recognised the CABS team equipped with a video camera, he took to his heels, leaving behind the dead Honey Buzzard, a cartridge belt with 40 rounds, his jacket and a steaming thermos of steaming hot cocoa. The police recovered the dead bird and personal items for further investigation.

On 17 September at Dwejra Lines a hunter was observed shooting at a group of Honey Buzzards flying flat over the ridge, but luckily missed them all. A few minutes later a nearby CABS team at Gnejna Bay saw shots being fired at an uninidentified bird of prey which also escaped unscathed.

In Buskett Gardens, the most important roosting area on Malta for migrant raptors on Malta, strategically placed CABS teams counted numerous shots aimed at Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards, Hobbys and an Eleonore’s Falcon as they left the protection of the trees in the early morning. On Monday morning in particular, according to the teams on the ground, there were regular salvoes of shots aimed at the rare birds by the hunters positioned in the vicinity. CABS will register official complaints with the police in regard of all incidents.

The Bird Protection teams, consisting of 22 German, Italian and British activists, together with their partners in Malta ( IAR and Nature Trust) will continue to operate in Malta until Sunday 23 September.