BirdLife Malta sends second shot Pallid Harrier to Sicilian rehabilitation center


 Pallid Harrier to be taken to Sicilian wildlife rehabilitation centre after being rescued by BirdLife Malta.

A pallid harrier shot in Gozo will be taken to Sicilian wildlife rehabilitation center, Centro Recupero Fauna Selvatica, after being rescued by BirdLife Malta this week.

The “near-threatened” Pallid Harrier, one of Europe’s rarest birds of prey, with as few as 310 pairs left breeding in the continent is just one of 13 different protected bird species to have fallen victim to illegal hunting in Malta this spring.

Other birds shot  include Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers, Common Kestrels, Hobbies, Bee-eaters, Nightjars, Cuckoos and owls.

In total, BirdLife Malta alone has recovered 18 injured or dead protected birds since the start of the hunting season, all of them confirmed by veterinary examination as having been shot.

“This is already almost double the number recovered during last year’s spring hunting season, and there are still three days of the season left,” lamented BirdLife Malta’s Conservation and Policy officer, Chris Debono.

“It is tragic to see so many protected birds gunned down by indiscriminate poachers, seemingly for no reason,” he said, adding that they  “have been able to save a few.”

On Wednesday evening, BirdLife staff successfully released a Nightjar at Is-Simar Nature Reserve in Xemxija. This intriguing bird is unusual in being nocturnal, feeding on moths and other night-flying insects and sleeping during the day.

“In theory, Nightjars should be less vulnerable to illegal hunting than day-flying birds, but we have seen that many hunters are not respecting the 3pm curfew and have even witnessed incidents of hunters going into fields full of roosting birds of prey and shooting them in their sleep,” said Debono.

BirdLife Malta has also refuted the claim made by Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Welfare, Roderick Galdes, that there is no evidence to corroborate reports of widespread illegal hunting and trapping witnessed by Spring Watch volunteers during the spring hunting season.

“Apart from all the shot protected birds we have received, Spring Watch teams have recorded numerous other incidents, including protected birds being shot, illegal trapping and poaching inside nature reserves,” said BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager, Nicholas Barbara.

“We will, of course, be publishing a summary of our findings after the end of the spring hunting season, as well as sending a detailed derogation monitoring report to the European Commission.”

Yesterday, Galdes told journalists at Malta Today that BirdLife’s criticism of the decision to draft Armed Forces of Malta soldiers in to help police the spring hunting derogation was “unjust”, claiming that the soldiers were being used to guard Nature Reserves in order to allow police to focus their efforts elsewhere.

But BirdLife is sticking to its guns.

“There are no Nature Reserves in some of the areas where AFM soldiers were deployed and we have not received confirmation that the men in question have received any special training in policing hunting and trapping.” 

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