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Malta - Rare song birds seized from illegal trapper

ALE police officer with one of the confiscated red throated pipitsA bird trapper in Malta has been caught red-handed illegally trapping three rare species of song bird. He had been under observation by a group from the CABS camp (Committee Against Bird Slaughter) of which Max Farrugia of International Animal Rescue is a member.

The trapper was spotted in the south of the island from a distance of about 500 metres and, as soon as it was confirmed that illegal trapping was taking place, the observation team called the police. Eighteen birds were confiscated - four ortolan bunting, three red throated pipits and 11 short toed larks - as well as the trapping nets. The trapper will now face criminal charges and, as well as a heavy fine, he is likely to lose his trapping licence.

The ortolan bunting, pipits and larks are all migratory birds on their way from their winter quarters to their breeding sites. The ortolan bunting is an endangered species all over Europe and during the last years it has declined dramatically.

On 2 May CABS watchers spotted another trapper in the north of Malta who had laid ten nets on the ground and was using ten live quail as decoys. The CABS observers contacted their control room and immediately the police were called in. The Administrative Law Enforcement police arrived swiftly at the scene, confiscated all the birds and seized the nets. The trapper was also interrogated and will be brought before the court.

The CABS bird protection camp on Malta ended on 5 May. Its aim was to collect evidence of illegal hunting and trapping to help the police catch as many law breakers as possible.

Confiscated short toed larksMax Farrugia reports: "The bird protection camp has revealed that a relatively small number of hunters and trappers are still breaking the law in spite of the ban on spring hunting and trapping in Malta this year by the European Court of Justice. However, even a reduced amount of illegal activity can have a significant impact on rare and declining species like the ortolan bunting and we will continue to support the police in their efforts to catch anyone flouting the ban."

Even though very few birds were shot during the past three weeks, observers logged about 3500 shots at migrant birds during the bird protection camp. In addition to the illegal shooting, three illegal active trapping sites and some electronic lures were reported to the police. However, the use of electronic bird lures seems to have dropped dramatically in comparison with previous years.

A second report is expected from the CABS bird protection camp in the next few days.