Birdlife demands that police ensure the safety of birdwatchers
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On the first day of BirdLife Malta’s international Raptor Camp, BirdLife has announced during a press conference that it has sent a letter to the Police Commissioner a few days ago urging the police to ensure the safety of the international and Maltese birdwatchers who will take part in Raptor Camp.
Speaking at the press conference, BirdLife Malta President Joseph Mangion said: “The Maltese hunters’ federation (FKNK) has repeatedly issued press statements threatening birdwatchers and BirdLife. Since the police have not taken any action to rein in the Federation’s leaders, the statements have become more sinister and xenophobic in tone, to the point where they feel they can issue warnings on what renowned international conservation experts visiting our island can and cannot do. They clearly feel that they are above the law and as long as the police fail to take any action and the government remains silent, the situation is likely to get worse.” Mangion continued.
BirdLife explained that only yesterday a group of birdwatchers on the side of the road at Girgenti were approached by a group of more than 10 hunters and one of them warned the Raptor Camp team leader not to come back the next morning. The police who came to the spot shortly after birdwatchers called, prevented the situation from escalating any further.
In its letter sent to the Police Commissioner last Thursday, BirdLife Malta drew attention to FKNK’s public statements which violate a number of the clauses of the Criminal Code. BirdLife wrote that these statements clearly incite xenophobic sentiments among the hunting community and incite hatred against BirdLife, thus jeopardising the safety of the field workers and staff of the conservation organisation as well as the international conservationists who will take part at the Raptor Camp. BirdLife demanded that the police take legal action against the FKNK and also ensure the safety of the Raptor Camp volunteers.
One of the prominent names who will join BirdLife’s Raptor Camp is the Italian Conservationist Anna Giordano who won the winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize (1) in 1998 for her conservation work to protect birds of prey from poachers in Sicily. Among other Raptor Camp participants there are biologists, professional ornithologists, a wildlife conservationist, a veterinary who works on Raptors in a Spanish rehabilitation centre in Albacete and a publisher who last year won the birding book of the year by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), one of the leading wild bird research institutions in Europe.
“Why is FKNK so uncomfortable with the presence of these prominent conservationists in the countryside?” asked Mr. Mangion. “If FKNK is really against illegal hunting then they should be happy to report poachers who shoot at protected species. Hunters who claim that they obey the law are also guilty if they the hide illegal hunting that they witness. FKNK should reveal how many times they reported an illegal activity to the police so far and whether they have ever cancelled memberships within their federation for hunters who were convicted of breaching the law.” concluded Mangion.
BirdLife Malta has been organising international bird monitoring camps (Raptor Camp) in September to collect data on bird migration and report illegal hunting to the police since 1990s. This year’s camp will host 42 international conservationists and ornithologists from 7 countries and will kick off on 13 September and end on 28 September (2). Over 15 Maltese birdwatchers will lead the teams who carry out bird observations on public land during the early hours of the day and in the afternoon until it is dark.
1) The Goldman Prize annually honours grassroots environmental heroes from the six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands and Island Nations, North America, and South and Central America. The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. Winner receives the largest award in the world for grassroots environmentalists. http://www.goldmanprize.org/node/105
2) The international volunteers who take part in this year’s Raptor Camp come from Spain, Finland, Italy, Denmark, UK, Republic of Ireland, Germany and France.