A Barn Owl forming part of a recovery project managed by the hunting lobby Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) was illegally shot over the past few days, ending up on the grounds of a secondary school, according to BirdLife Malta.
The owl, which formed part of FKNK’s government-funded Barn Owl Reintroduction Project, “clearly illustrated” how illegal hunting remains “rampant and indiscriminatory”, according to Birdlife Malta.
They said during open hunting seasons such as the ongoing Autumn season, “hunters target anything that flies,” in a press release on Tuesday,
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana described the incident as “the tip of the iceberg” for illegal hunting, claiming it showed “how backwards in time we have gone when even the efforts of the hunting lobby to greenwash hunters’ activities, become stained red in blood by hunters themselves.”
The Barn Owl, which was shot in its right wing, was handed over by a member of the public to BirdLife on Monday after it was found on the grounds of the St Dorothy’s School in Żebbuġ.
The reintroduction project was launched by FKNK in 2018 and is funded by the government through the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU). It aims to re-establish the Barn Owl species after it was “exterminated,” according to Birdlife Malta, through illegal hunting up to the 1980s.
In comments to The Shift during the course of a year-long investigation into the effects of illegal hunting on conservation efforts, BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation Nik Barbara had said, “Around 80% of injured birds will end up dead, even if given medical care.”
The investigation, published in October, established how illegal hunting in Malta wasted hundreds of thousands of euros of EU member state funds. It showed how the practice was allowed to increase in violation of EU rules and was abetted by the government to secure the votes of the hunting lobby.