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Two arrests for illegal hunting as large flock of storks flies in to Malta

Flock of storks flying over Luqa airportSources close to the Maltese police have confirmed that two men have been arrested for allegedly shooting at a flock of storks. The man arrested in Zurrieq, in the south of Malta, was found in possession of two dead storks while a shotgun and blood was found on the scene of the arrest of the second man in Madliena.

Max Farrugia of International Animal Rescue Malta, who has been involved in bird rescue for the last 24 years, said the flock which crossed over the island was the largest he had ever seen in Malta. Ornithologists also confirmed that this was the largest number ever recorded in Malta. During the crossing IAR received several calls that a large number of birds were in flight over Malta and immediately alerted the police. The reports came in from different parts of the Island and also claimed that shots were being fired.

From the reports it was evident that at least eight storks had been seen being shot down. One severely injured bird was recovered but had to be euthanised by a vet because it had multiple fractures and other injuries. Another was found dead in a garden. Five injured storks were recorded still flying, two of them with dangling legs and some missing feathers.

Max Farrugia said it was estimated that there were about 200 White Storks. The police mobilised its field teams to monitor the birds and ensure their safety.

The flock flew over Luqa airport area and part of it roosted at Ta' Kandja and Zurrieq about two kilometres south of the airport. The flock was being watched continuously by the police, bird watchers from various groups, and also inspectors from MEPA until they roosted. BirdLife Malta, reported that a number of volunteers joined in and maintained a constant watch throughout the night on the two known roost sites at Ta' Kandja and Zurrieq.

The sighting of White Storks is a reason for joy in many countries around Europe as they are one of the most majestic migratory species. However, in Malta their appearance is a different story, causing enforcement officials and bird watchers to rush to their vehicles to protect the birds from poachers.

Bird groups in Malta including International Animal Rescue Malta called on the Office of the Prime Minister to increase minimum penalties for illegal hunting and permanently revoke licences for all serious hunting and trapping contraventions. The massacre scenario repeats itself in the Maltese islands during every single migration season. It was the second massacre which took place this year.

International Animal Rescue Malta is to inform the EU of events during this migration when the hunting season was officially closed. "We hold the EU as responsible as the hunters for such massacres because they continue to give concessions to the Maltese Islands," said Farrugia.