Trapping has turned protected areas “into a bird´s hell,” says CABS
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Massive trapping has turned protected areas on Gozo and Malta “into a bird´s hell,” the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today.
Aerial pictures released by the organisation show the dramatic impact that bird trapping is having on Gozo’s Ras il-Wardija and the coastline in the Gharb area, both protected Natura 2000 sites.
“Since 2014 – when the Maltese government U-turned and re-opened the live-capturing of finches – bird trappers have destroyed large parts of these unique natural and historical reserves to make way for their pursuits,” CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said. According to CABS vegetation was burned down and land levelled to create dozens of massive trapping sites for Golden Plovers and songbirds in these and other Natura 2000 sites on the archipelago.
“The list continues with dumping of building material, use of toxic chemicals to clear the ground for the nets, building of massive illegal concrete hides, artificial ponds and continuous presence and traffic of cars during the trapping season,” it said.
CABS also said that it has informed the authorities about 70 finch trapping sites which have been built on protected garrigue and other non-agricultural land. The reports also include a trapping site which was built in the middle of Ricasoli Fort near Grand Harbour. “According to the law it is forbidden to install bird trapping sites within protected areas and on land other than cultivated agricultural fields. “The WBRU has been asked to verify if these sites have been built in accordance with the law. We expect that all illegal sites will be dismantled immediately,” CABS Wildlife Officer Fiona Burrows said.
The NGO criticised the government for having wasted Maltese taxpayers money for a “one-sided promotional video” about bird trapping and for failing to provide the police with the necessary data and equipment to do their job.
The NGO said that the film, which was uploaded on the WBRU´s Youtube-Channel last month, “is painting a false picture of the situation and has nothing to do with the reality in the field.”
“In stark contrast to the impression given in the film there are still huge enforcement problems with illegal trapping outside the open season, smuggling of many thousand contraband finches each year and an undermanned and under equipped ALE unit,” Fiona Burrows said.
She added that one of the key messages of the film was that trappers who target protected species will have to pay a minimum fine of 5000 Euros. “In fact most of the poachers who have recently been reported by CABS were given much lower fines.”
CABS also said that despite it is peak finch migration time the WBRU has to date failed to provide the police with an updated list of trappers and sites which have been given a licence in 2016.
“Without these data the police are totally unable to do their job. Enforcement of the season is simply not possible,” Axel Hirschfeld added.
“The data were supposed to be delivered to the police on tablets with a special software, which is also highlighted in the film produced by the WBRU.”
Photos by CABS: Trapping sites on Gozo’s Ras il-Wardija and the coastline in the Gharb area, and Greenfinch decoy in Malta