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One day before the start of the BirdLife Malta and CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter) international conservation camps, BirdLife Malta has said that their office has received many reports of illegal hunting as well as shot protected species after a storm the previous night brought many migratory birds into Malta seeking shelter.
Birdlife said that while a Common Kestrel from Delimara and a Purple Heron from Gozo – a species of Conservation Concern in Europe with two pellets embedded internally, were delivered to BirdLife office yesterday, an injured Grey Heron was also passed on to the ALE in Delimara. BirdLife also received a shot Night Heron with three internal pellets from Hal Far today and a shot Little Bittern from Marsa a few days ago.
Since the start of the hunting season BirdLife Malta said it has recorded illegal shooting at protected species including Osprey, Honey-buzzard, Eleonora’s Falcon, Hobby, Night Heron, Red Knot, Little Egret and Mediterranean Gull. Illegal sea hunting for protected Oystercatchers and Shelduck using high powered speedboats has also been recorded by BirdLife field teams. A shot Turtle Dove, which may be legally hunted, was also received yesterday.
“The denial of the scale of illegal killing of migratory birds by the authorities have so far worked in favour of illegal hunters who once again started blasting protected species out of sky with impunity,” said Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta Executive Director.
BirdLife Malta and CABS said that it will will be joining forces in their efforts to monitor and report illegal hunting to the police this September. BirdLife’s Raptor Camp and CABS’ Operation Safe Passage start today and will continue till the 26th September. 68 volunteers from 10 countries are joining the BirdLife and CABS conservation camps.
CABS and BirdLife Malta went on to say that it also welcomed the authorities’ recent confirmation that police officers on extra duties will be assigned to the conservation camps to ensure the security of the bird watchers who have faced many attacks in the past.
BirdLife and CABS stated that last July requested police officers on extra duty, against payment by these organisations, after the escalation in violence against bird watchers during last April. The attacks included the windscreen of a Raptor Camp car blasted with a shotgun while parked 20 meters from a children playground, throwing of rocks on volunteers while driving by a group of camouflaged men in balaclavas, the beating of two BirdLife volunteers in Dingli, and numerous incidents of vandalism on vehicles including a windscreen smashed with a boulder. To date only the two aggressors who assaulted BirdLife volunteers in Dingli have been convicted, thanks to video evidence of the attack gathered and presented by BirdLife Malta.
Both organisations said that those who seem to be uncomfortable with their presence in the countryside are mostly criminals who do not want to be caught breaking the bird protection and hunting laws, as law abiding hunters had nothing to hide.
BirdLife Malta and CABS teams concluded by saying that will continue to operate on public land and their whereabouts will be made known to the police.
Photo: Purple Heron, a Species of Conservation Concern in Europe, was recovered with gunshot injuries from Gozo. The bird had a wound to the neck and X-rays showed two pellets embedded internally. Photo by Nadja Tschovikov.