Updated: BirdLife claims intimidation by Wild Birds Regulation Unit Head

BirdLife Malta has today released an email received from Head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, Sergei Golovkin, in which the government employee warns BirdLife Staff of acting illegally in rescuing injured birds, in an apparent attempt to silence the organisation from exposing the impact of illegal hunting.

In an email exchange regarding protected birds which were shot this week, photos of which BirdLife Malta had made public, Sergei Golovkin retorted that BirdLife Malta is acting illegally in collecting these birds. This is despite a judge ruling just two months ago that BirdLife Malta carries out such work in the best interest of birds; and the government recently providing the organisation with a building to use as a rehabilitation centre for shot and injured birds.

In the email, Mr Golovkin wrote “It does not appear to be the case that Birdlife (Malta) has any authorization to possess, control or keep any specimen of any bird, whether alive or dead, nor to kill any live birds by performing euthanasia on veterinary grounds. Kindly be guided by the above legal provisions accordingly.”

However, the legal provisions he quoted quite clearly state an exemption ‘where such possession is required for the rehabilitation, veterinary or other treatment or culling of the specimen on veterinary grounds’. BirdLife Malta recovers the birds for the purposes of taking them for veterinary treatment and care.

Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager, responded “This is a clear attempt by Sergei Golovkin to intimidate our staff and prevent us from rescuing shot birds and raising awareness about the impacts of illegal hunting. Not only is his claim invalid, but his behaviour is simply an abuse of power, and not what the public expect from the head of a government unitwhich should be working in favour of exposing the illegal killing of birds.”

Sergei Golovkin’s language echoes the recent case instigated by the FKNK in which the hunting federation pressed police to file criminal charges against BirdLife Malta staff for recovering shot birds and revealing it to the media. The magistrate cleared BirdLife Malta of all charges in June.

Furthermore, the government recently granted a building to BirdLife Malta for the exclusive use of becoming a bird rehabilitation centre, thereby recognising the organisation’s role in handling protected birds for veterinary treatment and rehabilitation.  The WBRU and Sergei Golovkin himself were involved in organising the formal media handover, in which Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights, Roderick Galdes, handed over the building to BirdLife Malta.

“Why then does Mr Golovkin suddenly refuse to recognise our role in recovering injured birds for veterinary attention and rehabilitation?” asked Nicholas Barbara. “BirdLife Malta’s intentions in carrying out this important work of rescuing shot injured birds, and reporting and raising awareness about the issue have been recognised by both a magistrate and the Parliamentary Secretary. Yet Sergei Golovkin is abusing his position of power within the unit to push forth what the FKNK have failed in doing – silencing us from exposing such illegalities.”

“Exposing the illegal hunting of birds, which authorities such as the Wild Birds Regulation Unit should be curtailing rather than concealing, is something we will continue to do regardless”, concluded Mr Barbara.

BirdLife Malta appealed and encouraged members of the public to come forth with reporting illegal hunting and injured birds. It also appealed to the Wild Birds Regulation Unit to come clear on whether it will continue supporting hunting federations’ demands to silence the organisation rather than recognising the fact that raising public awareness about the issue is one of the key elements in the fight against the illegal killing of birds.

Wild Bird Regulation Unit refutes claims of intimidation

With reference to the press release issued by Birdlife (Malta) earlier today, the Wild Birds Regulation Unit categorically refutes the claim of intimidation, and states that it acted correctly by requesting compliance with the law on the conservation of wild birds. The law prohibits possession or keeping of any birds, or their culling, unless authorised under Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations.

Unlike what is being claimed in Birdlife (Malta)’s press release, the authorities’ action is not “an attempt prevent the organisation from rescuing shot birds and raising awareness about the impact of illegal hunting. Birdlife (Malta) is free to exercise its functions and to raise awareness about illegal hunting as it deems fit, however its actions must not go beyond the provisions of the law, which applies to everyone.

Regulation 4 (1) (e) of the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations (SL 504.71) prohibits anyone from being “in possession or in control of or keep any specimen of any bird, whether alive or dead, or any recognisable parts or derivatives of any such bird not listed in Schedule II or Schedule III, unless he proves that such bird: (i) has been declared with the Malta Environment and Planning Authority or its predecessor by the 31st May 2003 and such person is in possession of the permits, or certificates of registration by the Malta Environment and Planning Authority or its predecessor or by the Wild Birds Regulation Unit to keep such bird in accordance with regulation 21; or (ii) is lawfully imported in accordance with regulation 6(1)(a); or (iii) is taken in a Member State where it was lawfully hunted or captured or otherwise lawfully acquired under the terms of Directive 2009/147/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Conservation of Wild Birds and under the legislation of that Member State.”

The above implies that the handling of any injured / dead wild birds (for whichever purpose) is illegal, unless the above prohibitions are observed, or unless possession is duly authorized in accordance with the said Regulations.

Furthermore, the 2nd proviso to Regulation 4 reads thus: “Provided further that the prohibitions provided for in paragraphs (e), (f) and (g) shall not apply where the person in possession of the specimen is the Director of Veterinary Services or any other person authorized by the Director of Veterinary Services and where such possession is required for the rehabilitation, veterinary or other treatment or culling of the specimen on veterinary grounds.”

Birdlife (Malta) is not covered by any such authorization to possess, control or keep any specimen of any bird, whether alive or dead, nor to kill any live birds by performing euthanasia on veterinary grounds.

 

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