BirdLife Malta urges the public to report any illegal hunting

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BirdLife Malta urges the public to report any illegal huntingBirdLife Malta made a public appeal today, urging anyone who witnesses protected birds being killed or any other illegal hunting incidents to report these to the police and inform BirdLife Malta.

“Every autumn we receive calls from members of public reporting shooting at protected birds, illegal hunting in protected areas, dangerous shooting close to residences, vehicles and other places where people are,” said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager, “But it is important that people also report these incidents to the police directly, as they are more likely to be able to act on information from eyewitnesses of illegalities.”

Every autumn, BirdLife Malta said that it carries out surveillance of illegal hunting activities with the help of local and foreign volunteers participating in its annual Raptor Camp, which also monitors bird migration and seeks to deter the illegal shooting of protected species.

The video and photographic evidence it gathers, as well as the testimony of eyewitnesses, is used to support police investigations and prosecutions of illegal hunting, BLM said.

“We often use information provided by members of public to guide our surveillance activities and in many cases this has led to successful prosecutions, so the importance of the public continuing to report incidents cannot be stressed enough,” said Mr Barbara.

BirdLife Malta also reminded members of the public of its voluntary injured bird recovery service, which it operates throughout the year to rescue injured wild birds and wherever possible to rehabilitate and release them back into the wild.

“The volunteers and staff who help to provide this service are dedicated to saving the birds they rescue, the vast majority of which are protected species that have been shot by illegal hunters,” Mr Barbara said, “and the autumn and spring hunting seasons are always the times when the most protected birds are shot.”

BLM said that every injured wild bird recovered by BirdLife Malta is examined by a veterinary surgeon, trained and experienced in avian veterinary care, who diagnoses any injuries or illness and provides a prognosis based on the bird’s condition.

Today, BirdLife Malta said it is passing one injured bird, a Night Heron found in Mellieha yesterday, to police who will take it to the Government vet for treatment of a fractured right wing caused by the impact of shotgun pellets.

A shot Squacco Heron also recovered yesterday has been deemed fit for release and will be taken to Is-Simar Nature Reserve in Xemxija this afternoon, where it will be able to feed in the wetland’s lagoon while its injuries heal.

BLM said that “Raptor Camp officially starts tomorrow, but local BirdLife Malta staff, volunteers and locals birdwatchers have already started monitoring the autumn migration, receiving reports of illegal hunting and recovery shot protected birds.”

The first two weeks of September have seen migration of birds of prey and other protected species building up steadily, with sightings of hundreds of Marsh Harriers and Honey Buzzards, as well as colourful Bee-eaters and aerobatic swallows.

“It is an ugly reality that the timing of the start of the hunting season to coincide with the start of autumn migration results in protected birds being killed on such a large scale,” said Barbara, “But it is a reality we can all do something to change if we take action to stop it.”

BLM said that a summary of what is legal and what is illegal during this year’s autumn hunting is available on BirdLife Malta’s website, www.birdlifemalta.org, along with instructions for how to report illegal hunting to the police and what information they will need.

Anyone witnessing illegal hunting should call the ALE on 2294 2161 / 62 / 63

If you find an injured wild bird, you can call BirdLife Malta on 2134 7644 – 46

Anyone interested in volunteering at Raptor Camp should contact the BirdLife Malta office or email raptorcamp@birdlifemalta.org.

Photo by Rupert Sanring – Two migrating waders, a Night Heron, Nycticorax nycticorax, (left) and Squacco Heron, Ardeola ralloides, recovered by BirdLife Malta yesterday after they were found by members of the public. Both birds were suffering from broken wings after being shot, but it is hoped they will both recover to be released back into the wild.

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