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Man caught trying to smuggle 157 songbirds out of Malta

A Libyan man who was caught trying to smuggle 157 songbirds out of Malta has been given a suspended sentence. The birds were discovered crammed into three small cages.

Canary (photo: Peter Grima)Ben Salem Mohamed Salim, 33, of Tripoli Libya, pleaded guilty after he was caught with the songbirds which he intended to sell in Libya. The birds, which were not protected species, could have been exported out of the country if the necessary permits had been obtained and carried in the right containers. But police investigations revealed during the court sitting that the birds were tightly packed in tiny cages. When they were handed over by the Customs officers to the police three of the birds were already dead.

Magistrate Myriam Hayman found Ben Salem Mohamed Salim guilty and handed down a six-month jail term suspended for one year and fined him €233. She recommended the songbirds be transferred to a place such as Razzett tal-Hbiberija in Marsascala, a place licensed by the Government where people with special needs can receive therapy. There is already a considerable number of animals that receive care in this location. The prosecution in this case was in the hands of Inspector Alex Miruzzi who heads the administrative law enforcement section of the Malta Police.

Sources close to pet shops have said that this is just the tip of the iceberg and during the year a number of Libyans visiting Malta buy a significant number of song birds, mainly canaries, and take them back home. The breeding of canaries in Malta is quite extensive.