Illegalities and no enforcement: spring hunting ‘taking away from Europe’

The Maltese government’s insistence on opening a spring hunting season comes at the expense of the rest of Europe as protected and vulnerable species continue to be killed with little to no enforcement present across the islands, Nicholas Barbara, Head of Conservation at BirdLife Malta, told The Shift.

“One of the conditions for a derogation for spring hunting is that seven police officers for every thousand hunters should be performing spot-checks and monitoring hunting areas, but over the course of the spring hunting season, our teams have only ever come across a few sparse units,” Barbara said.

“With around 8,000 hunters registered for the season, there’s nowhere near enough police presence to make up this ratio. Malta has one of the densest populations of hunters anywhere in Europe,” Barbara added while observing over Wied ir-Rum, limits of Dingli and Imtaħleb, with at least six hunters visible within half a square kilometre patch of land.

On Friday and Saturday, at the tail end of the 2023 spring hunting season, The Shift joined a BirdLife Malta team on one of their daily morning observations of hunting hotspots around the island, monitoring for illegalities, in lieu of a practically non-existent police presence.

Over the span of eight hours, across two days, The Shift did not observe a single police enforcement unit across the seven different popular hunting locations visited. The Shift joined observations made in Imtaħleb, Kunċizzjoni, Fomm ir-Riħ, Bidnija, Marsaxlokk, Birżebbuġa and Miżieb.

Speaking to The Shift, Barbara noted that throughout the first week of this spring’s hunting season, Turtle Doves were targeted despite the season then being open only for Quail.

“We’ve also seen hunters targeting several protected species, Nightjars (Buqrajq), European Rollers (Farruġ), Kestrels (Spanjulett), Orioles (Tajra Safra) and Marsh Harriers (Bugħadam),” Barbara said.

“Most species migrating at this time of year are still going up to Europe to breed after having crossed from Africa,” Barbara noted.

“All the species being killed here are being taken away from other European countries,” he added, noting that they breed in around nine different countries.

“It’s a bit puzzling how European states like Germany have their conservation efforts only for the birds to be shot down right as they pass through Malta,” Barbara said, making a particular example of the vulnerable Turtle Dove.

Illegal and unsustainable hunting “is something that obviously undermines all the conservation efforts that are being done in these countries,” he concluded.

Responding to a call from a member of the public who came across an injured Kestrel (Spanjulett) on Friday, the team arrived on-site within 15 minutes. The Kestrel was found in an area of Baħrija known as Ras Ir-Raħeb, close to Fomm ir-Riħ.

Once at the location, Conservation Biologist Marcella Giornetti, who was assisting BirdLife Malta, noted that the Kestrel was injured twice, having shotgun pellets through both wings, with one of the injuries being already at least a day old. The bird will likely succumb to its injuries despite being found alive.

The Kestrel’s fate matched that of the many other protected and vulnerable birds attempting to make their way North in spring, only to be shot dead halfway. Those who survive the initial shooting do not fare much better.

Barbara said that “around 80% of the injured birds we try to rescue will end up dying, even if given medical care, only the remaining 20% can survive, be rehabilitated and fly properly again after being shot”.

This article was brought to you with the support of IJ4EU and is part of a series involving cross-border investigative journalism. Photos and video: Michael Kaden.

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Joseph Tabone Adami
Joseph Tabone Adami
1 month ago

Another glaring instance of our country certainly being ‘l-aqwa fl-Ewropa’. Well done!

1 month ago

So Sad 😭😭

1 month ago

Unfortunately it’s a country of little men with small appendages, thinking they’re big by shooting innocent birds out of the sky, or trapping them so they can walk around with the poor thing in a cage, like it’s a badge of honour!

1 month ago

People with big guns and little di-ks are just what the MLP needs in it’s support base, because it’s losing everyone else.

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