Teamwork for bird protection in Malta.

 [singlepic id=245 w=320 h=240 float= left]In Malta hunters are again going on about their “rights” to hunt and trap wild birds in an archaic manner. Their behaviour clashes dismally with modern-day sensibilities over wildlife and biodiversity. The plaintive cry of the hunter continues to claw more ground with talk of an election in the air. Yet the plaintive cry of the hunter continues to claw more ground with talk of an election in the air.

The European Court of Justice found Malta guilty of opening a spring hunting season every year after the 2004 accession.

Finally, in 2008, the government decided not to declare a hunting season that spring or the year after, while the court case was ongoing. According to Birdlife, these two years turned out to be fantastic years for Malta’s breeding birds.

[singlepic id=463 w=540 h=410 float= centre]

Hundreds if not many thousands of migrating birds, including raptor

continue to be slaughtered by hunters each year in Malta.

However, following a court ruling in September 2009, the government brashly ignored the guilty verdict, opening a week-long spring hunting season and adopting legislation permitting longer future seasons with higher bag counts.

A self-inflating carnival for illegal hunters, the open season continues to flourish here in the Southern Mediterranean. Birdlife will be holding its annual spring watch camp again this year.

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter is a German-based group active in countries where illegal hunting persists. A team from CABS will be in Malta this month to monitor and, where possible, foil the springtime killing of protected birds as happens every year.

Although the great majority of Maltese reject and condemn illegal hunting, effective control by the police is still lacking, reasons CABS as its teams work to enhance the efforts of the poorly resourced Administrative Law Enforcement arm.

Bird protection camps by the CABS in the Mediterranean have already flown into action, starting with the Italian islands ofPonza and Ischia, where seven trappers were caught red-handed by the police and 267 snap traps seized.

Following the Ponza operation, the CABS will make its presence felt in a six-week operation covering the islands of Ischia, Malta, Cyprus and also onsouthern mainland Italy (Campania).

Cypriot trappers are in the habit of setting up illegal nets and making deadly ‘lime sticks’ by covering twigs with a deadly glue, traditionally made from boiling the fruit of the Syrian plum tree.

Small branches are dipped in the glue and placed in bamboo poles to make inviting perches.

A bird landing on the glue twig gets stuck and falls upside down. Fluttering to free itself and getting even more attached to the stick, it has no chance of escape.

The main victims are warblers and thrushes, but cuckoos, owls and other protected birds are also caught.

Working together with an Italian bird protection group and cooperating with local authorities, the CABS helps remove dozens of illegal nets and tape lures in Cyprus every year. An annual report about trapping levels on the island is then sent to the EU Commission.

While Mediterranean islands may be notorious, illegal hunters on the continent do not get off so lightly either. The CABS is monitoring three mainland countries for their bird protection performance.

When challenged, hunters in France hark back to the days when hunting rights were exclusive to the resident seigneur or landlord.

Sadly, a handful of top French politicians still consider grilled song birds served in a gin flambé to be an autumn delicacy.

It was the French Revolution that granted every citizen the right to hunt. Today, even as species such as the skylark are threatened in the south of France, around one million French hunters and bird trappers still bitterly oppose any restriction.

A large number of armed hunters in Spain have now, according to the CABS, “almost completely exterminated their four-legged prey” and are turning their guns on the 36 bird species which the Spanish government still decrees to be legal. Finch trapping is still permitted in some regions and in Majorca thrushes are still legal prey for trappers.

This may come as a shock, but never is the quest for bird protection stronger than in the home country of the CABS.

Seen from the outside as a leading light in terms of nature and environment protection, Germany is a candidate for the wooden spoon when it comes to this country’s “ramshackle” approach to hunting laws. German hunting legislation dates back to the 1930s and has never been thoroughly amended or updated with modern ecological knowledge.

Trapping, shooting and illegal trade in protected species is still widespread in parts of Germany. A particular problem is the illegal poisoning of buzzards and kites by hunters and keepers of pigeons who want to protect their birds against birds of prey.

The European Commission has on several occasions reprimanded the German government for inadequate implementation of international environmental regulations. Surveillance by the CABS has led to the arrest of over a dozen culprits in the last few years.

The CABS will be in Malta with 10 ‘Bird Guards’ this month to monitor illegal hunting. The focus will be on illegal shooting and location of trapping sites. As in previous years, the team will work in close co-operation with Birdlife Malta and the administrative law enforcement section of the police.

For the first time, CABS will have a team in Gozo for the duration of its stay. Germany’s biggest private TV station, RTL, will be linking up with the Malta camp teams to produce a documentary on illegal hunting in Malta.

Introduction of offence of vicarious liability for raptor persecution in England

Sign up here.

Comments are closed.