5th October 2012, Malta – Following the shooting of several Greater Flamingos in St Paul’s Bay last Wednesday, BirdLife Malta office has been flooded with additional injured and dead protected birds, and numerous reports of protected birds being shot in several locations over the last 48 hours. BirdLife Malta together with the RSPB (BirdLife UK) Investigations team and CABS (Committee against bird slaughter) also kept an overnight watch at Dingli on Thursday night to safeguard the roosting Egyptian Vultures.
Over the last two days, BirdLife alone has recovered seven injured protected birds, including a Common Kestrel, a Night Heron, a Yellow-legged Gull, a Hoopoe, a Lesser Kestrel, a Marsh Harrier and a Honey Buzzard.
The conservation organisation also received confirmation of a shot Hobby in Gozo yesterday. The injured bird was recovered by a birdwatcher and MEPA has been informed.
BirdLife and CABS teams have also observed widespread illegal shooting over the last two days in different locations on the islands. The BirdLife office has also been receiving numerous reports from members of the public and birdwatchers.
“Illegal hunting is clearly completely out of control and the government’s claims of high levels of enforcement and zero-tolerance of illegal hunting bear no relation to reality,” Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager said.
Second injured flamingo recovered
Yesterday afternoon the second of the two juvenile flamingos shot in Qawra on Wednesday was recovered from Salina Bay. The injured bird was immediately taken to the government veterinary services for rehabilitation.
Egyptian Vultures survive against all odds
Two endangered juvenile Egyptian Vultures were also seen arriving in Malta on Wednesday by birdwatchers in Dwejra, where illegal hunters shot at these rare migratory visitors. The Vultures were luckily soaring high above the cliffs and weren’t hit.
BirdLife Malta with the cooperation of local birdwatchers followed the vultures which eventually roosted in a quarry in Dingli. BirdLife, together with RSPB investigations staff, CABS and local birdwatchers, set up an overnight watch to guard the birds, with teams positioned to cover the area around the quarry.
Having made it safely through the night, in the morning both vultures were able to continue their migration south, protected by the continued presence of the volunteers and MEPA and police officers.
“These were two of the lucky ones,” said Bob Elliot, head of the RSPB’s Investigations Unit. “Most migrating birds of prey do not receive this level of protection from dedicated conservationists, who can’t cover the whole of Malta and Gozo. The need for a dedicated wildlife crime unit in Malta could not be better highlighted than this case.”
CABS: The end of the afternoon hunting curfew is a death sentence for numerous birds of prey
40 year old Safi man receives a 2 year suspended jail sentence for unprovoked assault on Bird Guard
Over the course of the past week CABS‘ Bird Guards participating in Operation Honey Buzzard have again observed, and in many cases filmed, the shooting down of numerous protected birds of prey. According to the conservation organisation, since the end of the afternoon hunting curfew birds of prey arriving in the evening are above all affected.
On Monday evening the volunteers witnessed how several hunters almost completely wiped out a roost of some 15 Common and Lesser Kestrels that had settled in trees in Safi, close to the runway of the international airport. CABS reports that the majority of the birds had already landed in a group of eucalyptus trees when a number of shots rang out and flushed the birds from their roost. “After that a bout of wild shooting began and it is feared that all the falcons were killed. At least five shootings down were witnessed directly of which three were filmed.
Annihilation of lesser kestrel and kestrel at evening roost
After several days of very slow migration, yesterday evening saw the arrival of numerous Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers and falcons to various parts of Malta. CABS teams deployed to Safi, Dingli, Bingemma and the area around Bahrija recorded numerous shots at the incoming birds and witnessed directly the shooting down of a Honey Buzzard and a Kestrel and the shooting at another Honey Buzzard with 6 shots. The shooting down of a third Honey Buzzard near Dingli.
Shooting down honey buzzards
Near Mgarr (Gozo) a member of the public observed a hunter shooting down a Hobby yesterday afternoon. The bird was recovered by the police and brought to a veterinary surgeon by members of CABS. Information received from police sources has confirmed that the ALE on Malta has also recovered at least 3 injured or dead birds of prey and has seized three shotguns, one of which was specially fitted with a spotlight for night shooting.
“Our data and observations prove that the poaching problem on Malta still reaches staggering dimensions. The insistence by the hunting associations that such incidents are isolated cases are deliberate and misleading propaganda, designed to prevent any further and necessary restrictions on hunting” comments CABS president Heinz Schwarze. “This sort of weak rhetoric used by FKNK und KSU is reminiscent of other lost causes grasping at the last straw before they finally go under” Schwarze continues.
CABS further report that the Bird Guards managed to film a trapper in Safi illegally trapping Quails. The police, who reacted rapidly, were able to catch the man on his trapping site red-handed and he will be charged accordingly. A CABS team sent to monitor the site yesterday evening were accosted by a man who ran out of a nearby house and, without warning, struck one of the conservationists full in the face with his fist and felled him to the ground. The 59 year old volunteer had to receive medical treatment in Floriana. The attacker was arrested the same evening by the police and spent the night in the cells. This morning the 40 year old was arraigned before the court and received a two year gaol sentence – with a conditional discharge for two years.
UPDATE: While this PR is written a CABS team at Dingli Cliffs filmed another Honey Buzzard being shot down at 4:35 pm today.