Illegal hunters in Malta take advantage of lax enforcement on first days of hunting season

This juvenile Bee-eater, was shot on the first day of the hunting season, wing broken and blinded in one eye. This young bird hatched this year and was making its first migration to Africa.

Tuesday 4th September, Malta – BirdLife Malta today announced that there were no ALE units patrolling the countryside on the opening weekend of Malta’s autumn hunting season, and the organization has already started receiving shot protected birds.

BirdLife Malta received an adult Night Heron and a juvenile Bee-eater, both protected species, on Saturday, the first day of the autumn hunting season. A veterinary surgeon confirmed that both protected birds had sustained gunshot wounds.

This morning BirdLife Malta received the third injured protected bird since the start of the season, a juvenile Marsh Harrier, with visible gunshot injuries. The bird has been taken to vet and the authorities have been informed.

Video showing various raptors including honey buzzard and marsh harrier being shot by hunters in Malta

Despite a government statement last week that police would “monitor closely the observance of hunting regulations and conditions”, Administrative Law Enforcement officers were assigned to other duties.

Since the migration started in August, BirdLife Malta has reported 18 active illegal trapping sites to police, targeting protected species from Wood Sandpipers to Grey Herons. Half of these illegal trapping sites had already been reported to the police last year.

The ALE were unavailable to respond to any of the incidents of illegal trapping reported by BirdLife Malta teams, referring all calls to the Local or District police. The lack of specifically trained officers lead to police failing to locate live decoy birds, neglecting to remove nets or to confiscate illegal tape lures which play calls to attract birds.

When BirdLife Malta’s surveillance teams revisited the areas only a few days later the sites were again actively trapping and targeting protected birds.

“This demonstrates, yet again, the falsity of claims that hunting and trapping law is strictly enforced by the Maltese authorities”, said Mr Barbara, adding that BirdLife Malta has long been calling for a dedicated wildlife crime unit to deal with illegal hunting and trapping both during and outside hunting seasons.

Illegal hunting worse than previous years

Illegal hunting and killing of protected birds in Malta has increased significantly during the autumn migration according to the initial analysis of data collected by BirdLife Malta’s international Raptor Camp observers.

One of Europe’s most threatened birds, this juvenile Pallid Harrier was shot in Gozo on its first migration after hatching this year. The bird is being sent to Sicily for treatment and rehabilitation.

Shot rare bird sent to Sicily for rehabilitation

19 September 2012

A Pallid Harrier, one of Europe’s rarest birds, is this evening being sent to a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Sicily after it was shot in Gozo on the 8th September.


A juvenile Honey Buzzard making its first journey to Africa after hatching in Europe earlier this year. Photograph by Edward Bonavia

Bird migration takes off as international volunteers join Raptor Camp

14 September 2012

This week Malta has seen a surge in bird migration just as volunteers from across Europe head to the island for two weeks to take part in BirdLife Malta’s international bird monitoring and illegal hunting surveillance camp.

29th September 2012, Malta – Illegal hunting and killing of protected birds in Malta has increased significantly during the autumn migration according to the initial analysis of data collected by BirdLife Malta’s international Raptor Camp observers.
Since the hunting season opened on the 1st September BirdLife Malta alone has received 23 shot protected birds- an increase of more than 40% over the same period last year.

Left to right: A Common Kestrel, Marsh Harrier and Honey Buzzard, all juveniles, all shot, received by BirdLife Malta in a single day (26th September 2012) during the autumn hunting season. 

BirdLife teams have also once again found the remains of not less than 13 protected birds in the Mizieb woodland last week and passed the evidence onto the ALE.

BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager, Nicholas Barbara, accused the authorities of failing to properly investigate wholesale killing of protected birds in Mizieb and other parts of Malta;

“More than 280 dead protected birds were found in Mizieb between 2009-2010 and all the evidence was passed on to the police. Yet three years later, despite our repeated requests, the authorities have not revealed the results of their alleged investigations nor made any progress towards identifying the perpetrators of some of the worst wildlife crimes Malta has seen.”

A Hobby, one of Malta’s migrating raptors, flying over Buskett. This bird has injuries to its right wing and legs typical of having been hit by lead shot from a shotgun. Photograph taken on the 18th September 2012.

September, BirdLife Raptor Camp and CABS teams have recorded a total of 119 incidences of shooting at protected species and 76 protected birds in flight with visible gunshot injuries.

Birds of prey remain the most targeted group of protected birds hunted over Malta, with Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards and Common Kestrels topping the number of incidents as in previous years.

Both organisations also recorded a total of 469 other illegal hunting related incidences, including shooting outside permitted hours and use of illegal electronic tape lures. Enforcement of hunting legislation woefully inadequate

Since the beginning of Raptor Camp on 16th September, BirdLife teams have also noted the presence of police units patrolling the countryside. Results show that on average 4 ALE vehicles have been seen monitoring Malta’s 10,000 licensed hunters each day.

“When you compare the number of officers to the numbers of illegal incidents it is obvious that the resources allocated to policing illegal hunting are nowhere near sufficient. Malta desperately needs a dedicated wildlife crime unit, with the resources and specialist training to properly tackle this problem,” said Nicholas Barbara.

“Instead, promises are made and agendas promoted in favour of extended hunting and trapping seasons in spring and autumn. With the stark failure of the authorities to control illegalities in the first month of the current hunting season, the prospects for efficient enforcement during an added trapping derogation this autumn are likely to land Malta at the European Court again,” concluded Mr. Barbara.



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