Massive blow against illegal trapping in Malta with police confiscation of illegal nets and live decoys
Malta - During the first three days of Operation ´Skyfall,’ conducted by the German Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), with support from IAR Malta, more than 330 contraventions of the hunting curfew have been recorded and five active illegal trapping sites have been closed down. In addition, acting on information provided by CABS teams, five live protected birds, including a strictly protected Nightjar and several waders, six shot Marsh Harriers, a dead Cuckoo as well as two illegally operated electronic Quail decoy devices were seized by the police.
As early as Saturday morning CABS volunteers located two active clap nets between Xaghra and Ramla in Gozo. These were immediately reported to the local police for confiscation. At about the same time a CABS team in Imtahleb Malta found a 10 metre long vertically strung trapping net (mist net) in which a bird was frantically struggling to free itself. The police were also called to this case but took 45 minutes to arrive at the scene. The offenders used this delay to remove the mist net so that confiscation was not possible. Another trapper with an active mist net in the valley (Wied ir-Rum) below Ta´ Baldu was not so fortunate. The police called by CABS on Saturday afternoon arrived in less than 20 minutes, seized the net, and initiated proceedings against person or persons unknown. A CABS team patrolling on foot in the valley between Mtarfa and the Dwejra Lines on Saturday afternoon made a particularly shocking find. The corpses of six Marsh Harriers, from the state of decomposition apparently dead for a few weeks, and a freshly shot Cuckoo were found lying in a newly mown field. It is suspected that the birds were shot in March and simply left lying in the field during the close season. This new example of a massacre of birds of prey on Malta only came to light when the clover was harvested. All corpses were recovered and taken away by the ALE (wildlife police.) The police have begun proceedings against person or persons unknown. On Saturday night two Bird Guard patrols were deployed in the Bingemma and Bahrija areas to collect evidence of the illegal operation of electronic decoy devices for Quail. They were extremely successful. Between 2.00 and 4.00 am a total of 16 of these banned devices were located. The local police from Mosta were alerted by the CABS patrols and despatched a mobile squad to the scene. The officers began to dismantle the devices at about 3.30 am. Close to one of the devices the volunteers discovered an approximately 20 metre long mist net and an over 40 metre long ground net for the illegal trapping of Quail. The net was surrounded by six cages with live Quail decoys. A few metres distant from the net, in a small garden, an aviary was discovered with several strictly protected bird species and some 20 unringed Turtle Doves, Song Thrushes and other huntable species. ALE officers and MEPA officials dismantled the nets and freed a Robin, a Dunlin, two Little Stints and a Nightjar – a highly endangered species throughout Europe. The birds were released the following day in the Il-Ghadira nature reserve. Five dogs were also found chained up and severely under-nourished in the garden, which was knee-deep in rubbish. The police informed the Animal Welfare Department who will take care of the animals. According to further information from CABS deployed in Safi, Delimara, Imtahleb and on Gozo, despite the total hunting curfew on Sundays a total of more than 330 shots were fired. Heading the league table on this Bloody Sunday was the area around Safi, where almost 200 shots were registered in the period 6.00 to 9.00 am. An ALE patrol alerted by CABS witnessed the wild orgy of shooting and two officers searched the area on foot. The result of the search is not known at this time. Near Imtahleb, where 88 shots were registered, a CABS team filmed a hunter stashing his weapon in his hide. On the arrival of the police the man took to his heels and, despite an energetic chase, could not be caught. An analysis of the video material will hopefully identify the offender. Twenty volunteer CABS Bird Guards are currently active on Malta and Gozo in order to record offences against Maltese hunting law and the European bird protection guidelines. They will remain deployed on operations until 30 April. The ‘wardens’ supposedly provided by the hunting associations to monitor their members have not been seen in the field. If they are indeed deployed, and were to wear a distinctive form of dress or other marking (the CABS observers are highly visible and unmistakeable in their distinctive Bird Guard T-shirts), this might indeed have a deterrent effect on law-breakers in their ranks.
Max Farrugia stated:” The fact that changes were made for the spring hunting and trapping season one can notice a considerable amount of hunters in the countryside which is very difficult
for the small ALE police force to control. The government said that the ALE are being assisted by a number of other police members but still the hunting is rampant and uncontrollable.”
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