“Resident” Greater Flamingo “shot and stolen” from Ghadira – BirdLife
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BirdLife Malta has said that the “resident” Greater Flamingo, which has graced BirdLife Malta’s Ghadira Nature Reserve for the past year and a half, has been “shot and stolen from the reserve.”
In a statement it said that Police have been called in to investigate this illegal hunting incident which took place over the past days in this protected bird sanctuary.
The point of entry into the reserve has been identified, BirdLife said, “and it is clear that whoever found his way into the reserve did so at night, shot the protected bird and took off with it.”
It added that “a used hunting cartridge was found alongside trampled vegetation at the back of the reserve, together with a number of unmistakably pink feathers near to the exit point, leading to the belief that the protected bird was taken.”Further searches identified a point of entry “through which a hunter had made his way into the reserve in order to shoot the flaming,” the NGO said.
Missing from the site since last Thursday, BirdLife Malta said that its staff was hopeful that the bird might have left its wintering quarters in order to migrate, and did not give the matter much attention until the real fate of the bird was discovered yesterday.
The NGO said that on the night in question the watchman on site had checked the perimeter, leading BirdLife Malta staff to assume a form of “silenced shotgun had been used as no shots were heard.”
BirdLife Malta remarked that “this is indeed a sad day for nature conservation in Malta since this bird had been at Ghadira for over a year, since August 2017, when it was rescued from Armier Bay.” Another flamingo which had been released with it on the same day, continued on its migration soon after, it said.
This bird was joined by a flock of eight flamingos during the summer months, who then went on to spend more than four months at the reserve before moving on last month.
At one point there was a record 14 flamingos at the Mellieha-based reserve and this led BirdLife Malta to open the reserve to the public several times in August during the closed period for the summer break.
BirdLife Malta stated that “we now know however that much still needs to be done to eradicate the spectre of illegal hunting which deprives citizens of the right and joy to enjoy such species.”
“The issue of taxidermy must also be reviewed with urgency since birds such as this flamingo are probably the victims of taxidermy-fuelled demand,” said BirdLife.
It added that “the issue of taxidermy collections has been flagged several times to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) and Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri but no action has been forthcoming to date.”
“Checks were previously carried out to a limited degree by the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) but now are at an all-time lo,” said BLM.
“This is the second illegal hunting incident involving the flamingos at Ghadira in less than a month. Last month another flamingo was shot while another disappeared when a flock of three flew out of the reserve,” said BirdLife “A few minutes later only two returned with one clearly displaying a gunshot injury to its neck.”
The NGO stated that “it is unfortunately clear that the fencing around the reserve and the watchman on site is not enough of a deterrent to stop these criminals from such atrocious acts and therefore BirdLife Malta management will be stepping up their efforts to improve security to hopefully end further illegalities on site in the future.”
BirdLife Malta argued that “in a year to be labelled as the worst year for the illegal hunting of protected birds in the past six years, such incidents just prove the sad reality that illegal hunting in Malta and Gozo is rampant.”
BirdLife Malta appealed for any information about this incident to be immediately relayed to the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit of the Malta Police Force or directly to BLM’s offices.
Photos by Alvin Farrugia and BirdLife Malta