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Majority of hunters respect spring hunting ban - CABS

The third Bird Guard Camp in Malta organised by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) with the help of International Animal Rescue came to an end earlier this week. After monitoring bird migration and illegal hunting for the past nine days, the organisers issued a press statement saying that the spring hunting ban imposed by the Maltese government meant that far fewer migrating birds were shot than in previous years.

Honey Buzzard (Photo: CABS / S. Agmon)Equipped with spotting scopes and video cameras, the bird guards filed official complaints against eight people who were observed shooting at protected birds or patrolling the countryside armed with shotguns. In addition, two trapping sites were discovered with freshly erected nets; one near Fort St. Leonardo (Marsascala) and another on Friday some 150 metres below the Red Tower on Marfa Ridge.

The four CABS teams also registered some 354 shots, mainly in the early hours. In comparison the four teams deployed last spring registered 1,350 shots in a nine day period. This is a significant decrease. It shows that the majority of hunters respected the hunting ban which is encouraging. It isn't clear whether this was owing to the weather conditions, a reduced number of migrating birds, the presence of the bird guards or compliance with the law by hunters. It is believed it was a combination of all these factors. The patrols by the Administrative Law Enforcement Police also played an important role.

It has been noticed that organised gangs of poachers still have a large negative impact on migrating birds in spring. During just two days (26-27 April) CABS teams observed the shooting down of four protected raptors.

Apart from regular verbal abuse and attempts at intimidation aimed at the CABS members, there were only two serious incidents during the camp. Last week a poacher fleeing from a CABS team fired a warning shot in their vicinity and on Saturday a team was stalked by a car (with the registration number ‘GUN') for almost an hour in the Bahrija area. Every time the guards paused to scan the landscape, the stalker also stopped behind them and made a call on his mobile. The incident and car registration number was reported to the police.

CABS have announced their intention to mount operations again in the autumn, this time with a larger team of up to 30 international volunteers. A pleasing development is that a number of Maltese people have contacted CABS over the past few weeks with offers of practical and financial support. During the autumn camp which will be held in September the CABS and local teams will be in a better position to cover the whole of the island.

Max Farrugia, Chairman of International Animal Rescue in Malta, said: "This spring the number of injured birds was far lower than in the previous seasons. Between mid-March and the first week in May we admitted 13 birds. Among these were three turtle doves, two gulls, one shearwater, two racing pigeons, two kestrels, two honey buzzards, and one quail."

The hunting lobby did its best to raise hunting as a national issue when the political parties launched their EU election campaigns earlier on. FKNK council members met different candidates from the main political parties prior to the commencement of the Malta court case in the European Court of Justice.