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Before the autumn hunting season opens on the 1st of September, illegal hunting is once again on the increase as BirdLife Malta has started to receive protected birds with verified gunshot injuries while reports of illegal hunting incidents increased dramatically in the countryside.
Last week, BirdLife Malta received a Cory’s Shearwater (1), a Little Egret (2) and a Purple Heron (3), all with severe gunshot injuries. BirdLife Malta stated that the birds were x-rayed and examined by a veterinarian. In all cases the birds had verified gunshot injuries which were too severe for rehabilitation and the birds had to be euthanised by the vet.
Birdwatchers in the countryside are also reporting an increase in illegal hunting over the last week as the migration started to pick up, stated BirdLife. The conservation organisation said that it had received many illegal hunting reports, including poachers shooting at Bee-eaters and Turtle Doves in Girgenti, killing a Montagu’s Harrier and Honey-buzzard (4) at Laferla Cross, shooting at Oystercatchers in a speedboat near Ghadira Bay and shooting down a Purple Heron at Dwejra. A dead juvenile Purple Heron with gunshot injuries was also reported from the Foresta 2000 site in Mellieha.
“In a depressingly familiar pattern, as bird migration begins, protected birds are being targeted both on land and at sea’ said Dr André Raine, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager. “Despite the predictable upsurge in illegal hunting, the ALE are still committed to other duties, such as beach patrols,” continued Dr Raine. “While we have seen that the ALE in particular are effective when they are out in the countryside, at present they are repeatedly unable to deal with illegal hunting reports due to their extremely limited resources. This is not an acceptable situation.”
BirdLife Malta also drew attention to the unfulfilled promises of the FKNK regarding their claim that the hunting federation would cancel memberships of those found guilty of illegal hunting and trapping.
“The recent conviction of the FKNK’s Secretary General Lino Farrugia regarding an illegal trapping incident brings into question the stance of the FKNK regarding illegal hunting. If a leading official and vocal mouthpiece of the FKNK leadership is convicted of criminal offenses, then this sets an exceptionally bad example to the rest of the hunting community” concluded Dr. Raine.
Top photo: A Cory’s Shearwater with gunshot injuries to the wing, found on 26th August in Gozo near San Blas bay, photo by BirdLife Malta
Bottom photo: A Purple Heron and Little Egret, both found with severe gunshot injuries on the 28th August 2008, photo by BirdLife Malta
Notes: 1) The Cory’s Shearwater is listed under the European IUCN Red List as ‘Vulnerable’ and is classified as a species of Conservation Concern in Europe (BirdLife International 2004).
2) The Little Egret is protected under Annex 1 of the Birds Directive, and is the subject of special conservation measures in Europe.
3) The Purple Heron is listed as a species of Conservation Concern in Europe due to its declining populations (BirdLife International 2004).
4) Both the Montagu’s Harrier and Honey-buzzard are protected under Annex 1 of the Birds Directive, and are the subject of special conservation measures in Europe.