Malta the killing continues – Marsh Harrier found shot dead on Hunting Reserve

BirdLife Malta claims that a shot Marsh Harrier found dead in Mizieb woodland was collected by Administrative Law Enforcement officers on Sunday afternoon after Raptor Camp volunteers were led to the location by the member of public who had stumbled upon the body of the protected bird while out walking.

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Shot Marsh Harrier – Malta

Photo by Caroline Rance. ALE officers inspecting the body of the protected bird:

The police were called as soon as the Raptor Camp team had verified that the bird was a protected species, an adult female Marsh Harrier, (Circus aeruginosus), or Bagndan anmar in Maltese, BLM said. Photographs were taken of the bird in situ and the team waited for police officers to arrive. The attending officers inspected the bird for signs of injuries and found shotgun wounds to the belly and right wing.

The dead harrier was found in an area of the public woodland managed as a “hunting reserve” by the Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists (FKNK), who yesterday claimed that there was no evidence that illegal hunting was taking place during the autumn hunting season.

In recent statements FKNK spokespeople have repeatedly asserted that the presence of “legal hunters” in the countryside is the best deterrent to illegal hunting, calling on their members to report any incidents of illegal hunting and promising in will not tolerate any abuses, BLM said.

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Photo by Caroline Rance.

The discovery of this shot protected bird in the FKNK’s stronghold of Mizieb, where the presence of “legal”, licensed hunters and FKNK card carrying members is higher than anywhere else on the islands, raises serious doubts about these claims,” said Steve Micklewright, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director.

This is just one of the incidents of illegal killing of protected birds BirdLife Malta has recorded since the start of Raptor Camp on 15th September. Raptor Camp volunteers have witnessed dozens of illegal hunting incidents, including shooting at and killing of protected species, use of illegally modified shotguns and hunting outside legal hours.

“It would be very interesting and revealing to know how many and what illegalities have been witnessed and reported to the FKNK by the association’s 12,000 law-abiding members, compared with the number our half-dozen or so teams have witnessed and recorded in the last 10 days,” said Mr Micklewright.

“Presumably none, if they are sticking to the line that there is no evidence of illegal hunting taking place. That in itself would say a lot about the expectation that legal hunters can be relied on to report illegal hunting and so help to police the hunting season.”

A summary of what is legal and what is illegal during this year’s autumn hunting is available on BirdLife Malta’s website, www.birdlifemalta.org, along with instructions for how to report illegal hunting to the police and what information they will need. Please also tell us about your report.

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