Protected birds continue to be killed at the start of the New Year – BLM

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Protected birds continue to be killed at the start of the New Year - BLMOn the first working day of 2010, the BirdLife Malta office received two shot birds both protected by law; a Racing Pigeon (Hamiema tat-tigrija) and a juvenile Yellow-legged Gull (Gawwija Prima). Analysis of shot protected birds shows no improvement over the last three years

The Racing Pigeon was found at the Foresta 2000 site with a gunshot injury to the wing. The Yellow-legged Gull was collected from the shoreline in front of the Radisson Hotel at St Julian’s. The young bird had severe gunshot damage to its wing and as a result the wing was almost severed. BirdLife stated that the organisation has been receiving regular reports of illegal shooting from the adjacent area of Pembroke.

"BirdLife Malta has been highlighting this issue for many years and has continuously revealed irrefutable evidence of widespread and commonplace illegal hunting. Despite this, the same old problems remain unsolved as the government continues to ignore the true scale of the problem." said Dr. André Raine, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager.

An analysis of shot protected birds received by BirdLife Malta showed that in 2009, the organisation alone received 95 shot protected birds of 37 species, with almost half of these given additional protection under Annex 1 of the Birds Directive due to their conservation status in Europe. This represents an increase on the 91 shot protected birds (1) received by the organisation in 2008 and the 81 received in 2007.

In addition to the 95 shot birds received by BirdLife in 2009, a staggering figure of over 200 dead protected birds hidden under rocks or in barrels were recovered from the Mizieb woodland in 2009, a public land claimed as a hunting reserve by the FKNK. The remains of these birds were handed over to the authorities to confirm the cause of death. To this date, nobody has been charged for the crime and no further information has been forthcoming by the authorities.

"Whilst illegal hunting is not a problem that is restricted to Malta, no other BirdLife partner receives such a high number of shot protected birds on a regular basis. The actual number of protected birds illegally killed as they fly over Malta is many times higher. This is further demonstrated when we consider the shot protected birds delivered to the Natural History Museum by the police and MEPA in 2009" continued Dr Raine.

In 2009 alone the Natural History Museum received a total of 374 birds confiscated by the ALE or MEPA (2). This figure is almost four times higher than the number of birds received by BirdLife Malta over the same time period and does not include the birds found in Mizieb.

"Since it took charge of hunting and bird protection related issues after the general elections in 2008, the Office of the Prime Minister has systematically downplayed the true scale of illegal hunting. We invite the Prime Minster to join our surveillance teams in the countryside during peak migration to see the situation for himself. Maybe then he will realise why Malta has such a bad reputation for bird conservation throughout Europe." concluded Dr. Raine.

Notes: In 2008, BirdLife Malta also received a further 15 protected birds that were confiscated from a falconry centre in Siggiewi where they were being held illegally. The vast majority of these birds also had old gunshot injuries. Some of these carcasses may have come from cases involving poaching in a previous year.

The photograph on the right shows a Yellow-legged Gull, which is a rare breeding species in Malta, it is often illegally shot during the winter season along with other wintering gull species. Photo by BirdLife Malta.

On the left, although considerable resources are spent on breeding, conditioning and training racing pigeons – some still fall victim to poacher’s guns. Photo by BirdLife Malta.

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