Malta:Short-toed eagle believed shot as Autumn hunting ban remains in force

A number of shots were fired near a roosting rare Short-Toed Eagle early on 30 September and the bird has not been seen since, BirdLife said.

The bird, which was first sighted on Sunday afternoon flying down to rest on rocks along the Dwejra Lines before settling in nearby trees to roost.

BirdLife Malta organised a watch over the bird during the night. At 6.24am two shots were fired in the area where the eagle was resting, and the bird has not been seen since.

The ALE were immediately informed and policemen arrived at the scene to investigate shortly after.

Short-toed Eagles are rare visitors to Malta, and while such a sighting is a delight for birdwatchers, the species is highly sought after for illegal taxidermy collections, BirdLife said.

short toed eagle

The Short-toed eagle is an exstremly rare visitor to the island of Malta

Nicholas Barbara BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager said, “Over the past days, we’ve had a nice spectacle of some rare birds appearing over Malta, some of which roosted on the island and left safely the following morning. Sightings included a Red Kite, a Common Buzzard and at least another 4 Short-toed Eagles. The rarity and majesty of these species give the bird an extremely high value on the black market for illegal taxidermy, making it highly demanded and at great risk.”

BirdLife said it was calling for even stronger penalties in the light of this incident. “Clearly the €5,000 fine and revocation of a hunting licence for life is not a strong enough deterrent for these criminals who have no fear of the law. We are therefore calling for fines to be increased to €15,000 and for custodial sentences to be imposed.”

BirdLife said it was also calling for much greater enforcement to lead to greater prosecution of those keeping collections of stuffed birds.

“The main driver for illegal killing of rare birds such as the Short-toed eagle is taxidermy, with such rarities featuring high on the wish-list of many collectors. Unfortunately a great number of collections have gone unchecked over the years, leaving hunters with a wish-list to continue adding these specimens in their private collections. It is high time for government authorities to clamp on this loophole once and for all to cut this demand, along with a further increase in penalties.”

In a reaction, St Hubert’s Hunting Association said the alleged shooting of the short toed eagle and a few other recent incidents proved that a blanket suspension on all hunting in Malta did not deter the determined criminal.

“The recent increase in penalties for such crime, though serving as a good deterrent, needs to be implemented to the fullest or increased dramatically. After all their good work we regret seeing the police authorities having to appeal a recent sentence due to its inappropriateness,” the association said.

The association said the members of the judiciary should ensure that  their judgements reflect the seriousness of similar illegal acts, deter crime and prevent further use of senseless collective punishment that only served to give criminals a free rein.

“We reiterate our appeal to the authorities for a change in the law that would facilitate the reporting of wildlife crime and laud the enforcement authorities for their appreciated commitment towards apprehending the few remaining law breakers,” the association said.

1 comment to Malta:Short-toed eagle believed shot as Autumn hunting ban remains in force

  • andrew

    I’m sorry to say that this is bad information.As stated up here this type of eagle is very RARE in Malta and how is it that I have witnessed an same type of eagle that morning around 7.15 am in Siggiewi soaring the sky

    Bad information given to the general public in Malta and even else were.