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A report released by BirdLife Malta yesterday proves that the spring hunting season led to a significant increase in the numbers of protected species killed over the Maltese Islands. This was contrary to claims that stringent regulations, monitoring and increased fines would control the activities of hunters, results indicate that spring hunting in Malta resulted in the needless slaughter of protected species.
The number of the injured and killed birds BirdLife received during 2007 significantly increased with the opening of spring hunting season. 88.1% of the illegally shot birds came in to BirdLife after the opening of the spring hunting season on April 10th.
These birds represented a total of 18 species, many of which are listed under Annex 1 in the Birds Directive due to their status as Species of Conservation Concern in Europe.
The large proportion of illegally hunted species was birds of prey, which made up 65.0% of the shot birds. These birds are often rare or declining species.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, BirdLife Malta’s conservation manager Dr. Andre Raine said: “Malta, as it is today, has the dubious distinction of being the only Mediterranean country that does not have a single pair of breeding birds of prey. Illegal hunting has resulted in the recent extinction in Malta of species such as the Barn Owl and Peregrine Falcon (aka Maltese Falcon). The continued persecution of birds of prey means that even common breeding raptors in the Mediterranean, such as the Common Kestrel, do not have a chance to breed here even though conditions are more than suitable.”
Compared with 2005, the number of injured or dead protected species with gunshot wounds physically brought into the BirdLife office increased by 24.0%. Additionally, a total of 181 illegal hunting and trapping reports from 58 localities, were reported to BirdLife Malta between January and 21 May 2007 by birdwatchers. Numerous other reports received from members of the public were excluded if sufficient evidence was found lacking.
“The number of birds brought in, or reported to, BirdLife Malta represents only the tip of the iceberg. To be brought into the BirdLife Malta office, the shot bird must first escape from the hunter, and then be found by a member of the public willing to pick up the bird and bring it to BirdLife Malta. Most hunters who kill a protected species will make every effort to conceal or destroy the evidence,” added Dr. Raine.
BirdLife provided evidence to journalists clearly showing that the Birds received by BirdLife Malta were verified by a veterinary, handed to the ALE or given to the National Museum of Natural History.
The President of BirdLife Malta, Joseph Mangion praised efforts by the ALE this year to clamp down on illegal hunting. “However, it is simply impossible for them to carry out their task effectively with such limited manpower and resources” he added.
BirdLife Malta called on the Maltese government not to permit another slaughter of protected species next spring. If the organisation’s warnings had been heeded not to allow hunting at a crucial period when birds are breeding, these killings could have been avoided. No other country in the European Union allows hunting and trapping in spring.