The Committee Against Bird Slaughter and Birdlife Malta have observed various attempts to kill protected bird species such as Hoopoes, falcons, Marsh Harriers and Turtle Doves as volunteers rescued an injured female Kestrel that had shotgun injuries.
The groups said these observations were all made since the beginning of the spring hunting season.
The latest victim of illegal hunting was a female Kestrel (Spanjulet) which was found by a CABS team on Easter Monday in a valley close to Birzebbugia. The bird has sustained typical shotgun injuries and was handed over to Birdlife Malta for treatment. A vet later confirmed that the bird was shot.
CABS also released a video revealing dozens of cases of illegal bird trapping and hunting recorded by its teams since March – before the hunting season opened.
The footage also shows many cases of illegal finch trapping as well as a poacher hunting during the closed season near Ghar Lapsi. CABS said that it received, and confirmed information, that the man worked as a prison guard in Corradino Correctional Facility.
Finch trapping in Malta has been declared illegal by the European Court of Justice in June 2018.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning a CABS team found and reported another active trapping site for protected Hawfinches in a field near the airport. When the trapper spotted officers from the Administrative and Law Enforcement Unit, he took the caged finch decoys and left the site. The officers removed the remaining trapping nets and CABS passed on video evidence and the number plate of the trapper to the police for court proceedings.
These reports of illegal hunting come in the wake of others as, over the weekend, BirdLife Malta published images showing two protected birds, a Grey Heron and Montagus Harrier, with visible gunshot wounds in flight.
Since the start of this year’s spring hunting season on Friday, BirdLife Malta and police have recovered an illegally shot protected bird every day, for a total of five known illegally shot protected birds.
On Friday, it was a Common Kestrel (Spanjulett), on Saturday it was a European Bee-eater (Qerd in-Naħal), on Easter Sunday it was a Hoopoe (Daqquqa tat-Toppu), followed by a Common Kestrel (Spanjulett) and a Collared Dove (Gamiema tal-Kullar) in the next days.
The government’s controversial decision to open the spring hunting season just as Malta is handling the coronavirus pandemic has been heavily criticised by NGOs and the public as citizens are confined indoors.
“In view of the fact that the police and security forces are stretched and involved in activities related to the COVID-19 crisis, it would not only be impossible for the police to enforce the law, but also a blatant lack of responsibility on the part of the government if the season had to be opened now,” BirdLife Malta said.