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International Animal Rescue Saving animals from suffering around the world

Illegal bird trapping is recorded on the islands of Malta and Gozo

In the course of their monitoring of large trapping installations on Malta and Gozo participants in 'Operation Safe Passage' organised by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) have filmed four cases of illegal trapping during the first week. Subsequent police controls resulted in the seizure of several large clap nets as well as nine live and two artificial bird decoys.

Red-throated Pipit seized by the police in Zurrieq (Photo: CABS)Several days ago a CABS team was alerted to a trapper in St. Thomas' Bay who was trying to attract protected wader species by means of an illegal bird caller. Police who had been informed by the team seized a more than 40m long net and have started proceedings against the offender.

Two days later volunteers discovered an active trapping site near Bahrija, where a trapper was attempting to catch protected Dotterel, known in Maltese as il-Birwina. For this the man used plastic decoys as well as an electronic device playing Dotterel calls. A video recorded the man trapping and a copy was handed over to the Administrative Law Enforcement police as evidence. They subsequently searched the site and seized other items as evidence.

A real 'cops and robbers' chase took place the following day when police raided the site of a song bird trapper near Zurrieq. The CABS team had filmed the man for hours previously from a hide, following a tip-off from birdwatchers participating in another camp organised by Birdlife, and obtained extensive footage of the man trapping protected larks and pipits. The man saw the approaching police patrol and took to his heels, scrambling over a high stone wall to make his escape. However his attempt was in vain as he was easily identifiable from the CABS film. A search of the trapping site discovered five live Short-toed Larks (Maltese name Bilbla) and a Red-throated Pipit (Maltese name Dizz Ahmar), all of which were seized and later released into the wild in the presence of police because they were in good shape. Two of the birds had clearly been caught only a short time before and International Animal Rescue in Malta, who partners with CABS during the bird protection camps, praised the rapid reaction of the police At the same time IAR criticised them for their decision not to confiscate the nets or to search the man's premises for further protected bird species. "Protected birds have been seized at this same trapping site three times already in the past 12 months. The fact that illegal trapping continues here, despite ongoing investigations, demonstrates just how fanatical these trappers are", added Axel Hirschfeld of CABS.

Seizure of the clapnet used by the wader trapper in Gozo (Photo: CABS)A further seizure of protected species was made near Ghadira ta' San Rafflu on the island of Gozo, where a CABS team filmed a trapper catching waders over a number of hours. Officers from Victoria police station called to the scene caught the trapper still in his hut and seized his nets as well as three live Dotterel.

The CABS videos will be available for viewing on Youtube in the course of the next few days.

In addition to checks of trapping sites CABS teams have also observed and reported numerous cases of illegal hunting and have found several shot birds including a Kestrel (Spanjulett) and a Nightjar (Buqrajq). Volunteers were also appalled to witness the killing of two Honey Buzzards (Kuccarda) and a protected wader species being shot at south of Girgenti valley. Details of these latter incidents will be published in the next few days.

Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, stated that, owing to a sudden change in the weather which took place during the week, a considerable number of birds have been migrating over Malta. Several reports were received of illegal hunting in various areas of the island particularly in the southern part. The shooting was mainly of various species of herons.