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A shot Stone-curlew, another rare protected species, was passed on to BirdLife Malta with gunshot injuries on Monday, bringing the total number of shot protected birds received by BirdLife this autumn alone to 64.
The Stone-curlew is a scarce visitor to the Maltese islands and it is given extra protection under Annex 1 of the Birds Directive. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the Stone-curlew as ‘Vulnerable’ under the European Red List (1). Throughout Europe it has suffered extensive declines in recent decades. It has already become extinct in Slovenia and is one of England’s rarest breeding birds with a mere 347 breeding pairs in England (2).
“This is yet another case of a protected bird that is the focus of large conservation projects in other European countries migrating over Malta and being subsequently shot.” explained Dr. Andre Raine, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager. “As a result of the irresponsible and selfish actions of Maltese poachers, Malta has lost many of its important breeding birds such as Peregrine Falcon and Barn Owl a long time ago. Now migratory protected birds are being gunned down and every single rare bird like the Stone-curlew that is killed in Malta can have an impact on the population of these species in other European countries.” Dr. Raine continued.
The shot Stone-curlew was found by Mr. Joseph Farell, the director of the Hal Tarxien Youth Centre in his field. Mr. Farell contacted BirdLife to hand over the injured bird told the conservation organsation.
“I couldn’t believe it when BirdLife told me it was a protected bird” said Mr Farell “I don’t understand why they shoot them – is it just to put them in a vetrina? Don’t I too have the right to enjoy them flying free?” Mr. Farell told BirdLife.
The injured protected bird was immediately taken to a veterinarian who confirmed that the bird suffered serious gunshot injuries to its right wing and both legs, and was in a state of starvation indicating that the injury had occurred several days ago. The bird is currently under rehabilitation. MEPA and the police were also informed.
BirdLife stated that the Stone-curlew is the 64th shot protected bird the organisation received since the beginning of the migration season. This represents an increase of 129% over the same period last year, when a total of 28 protected birds were received by BirdLife.
“The number of the shot protected birds we receive represents only the tip of the iceberg but they are clear indicators of the state of illegal hunting in Malta. The situation this autumn is much worse than last year as the number of the protected birds we receive more than doubled compared to last autumn and we are even seeing hunters shooting in Bird Sanctuaries despite police presence. How can the government claim that things are under control when it is crystal clear that it is not?” Dr. Andre Raine concluded.
Photo above shows the shot protected Stone-curlew with gunshot injuries to its right wing and both legs. Photo by: BirdLife Malta.
1) BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe : Population estimates, trends and conservation status.
2) Phil Sheldrake, RSPB Stone-Curlew Recovery Project Manager, figure for 2007.