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Malta bird hunting season closed ahead of schedule

The spring hunting season in Malta was closed abruptly today after a bird which had been shot twice landed bleeding in the grounds of St Edward's College in Cottonera. It happened while the children were having their school break.

The decision was announced by the prime minister in a tweet in which he said that what had happened was inexcusable. "Despite a sharp decline in illegalities, today's hunting incident is inexcusable. I have decided to close the season immediately," Dr Muscat said.

The season was scheduled to close on Thursday.

A teacher, Diana Triganza, who was on supervision at St Edward's, said the boys, aged between seven and ten were 'traumatised' by what they had seen. Some of them started screaming when the bird fell onto the football pitch. The incident happened at about 12.30. The bird, a Kestrel, was shot from outside the school grounds. It was shot once and hit, and then shot again. Five shots in all were heard.

The police were called in by the school authorities and officers from the ALE took the bird away. Officials from the Animal Welfare Department told the teachers that the bird may survive.  

In a statement announcing the immediate closure of the spring hunting season, the government pointed out that immediately after the referendum, the prime minister had warned that he would not tolerate abuse.

During the season, the number of abuses fell dramatically thanks to strong law enforcement and the collaboration of those involved.

Nonetheless, today's incident could not be justified. No information about who had carried it out had been received.

Therefore the season was being closed immediately. This, the government said, should be a signal that such abuses would not be tolerated.

Spokeperson for IAR Malta Max Farrugia said that certain hunters never learn even though heavy penalties are imposed and more enforcement is taking place. The cost to open the season was a heavy burden on the country’s finances, first because of the referendum, and second because of the money being spent to enforce the laws.