Birdlife may be killing birds, insinuates boss of the hunters
Birdlife members may be killing birds to make the hunting federation look bad, the hunters’ federation president insinuated to a BBC radio documentary aired Tuesday.
During the programme, a vet showed presenter Matthew Hill two protected cuckoos which had died of gunshot wounds in Malta. Mr Hill then asked FKNK president Joe Perici Calascione who would shoot such birds.
“I don’t know. I’m not going to say Birdlife are doing it to make us look bad, because I could easily say that,” Mr Perici Calascione told the documentary entitled Bird Wars on Malta.
When asked if he really believed Birdlife members would do such a thing, Mr Perici Calascione replied: “I believe everything. They (Birdlife) believe that we do a lot of things so I could believe that (Birdlife are killing birds) as well.
“Why is it that when Birdlife says it... it’s true, and because the hunting community says it it’s not true?” Mr Perici Calascione asked.
When Mr Hill put the suggestion to Birdlife conservation manager Nicholas Barbara that his organisation is killing birds, the bird conservationist dismissed it as “ridiculous”.
The documentary attempted to discover the truth about hunting in Malta, where conservation organisations such as Birdlife are often at loggerheads with the hunting community.
Malta applies a derogation to the EU Birds Directive to allow hunters to shoot a limited amount of turtle dove and quail under strict conditions during the spring breeding season, when hunting is banned.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a hunter told Mr Hill that many hunters act outside the terms of the derogation and do not care whether a species is protected or not.
“They just shoot because we don’t get a lot to shoot at, so they just shoot at anything,” he said, claiming most hunters are FKNK members. The 15 members reported by the FKNK for illegal hunting are “just the tip of the iceberg,” he added.
He went on to talk about a flourishing underground trade in stuffed rare birds, such as the great spotted cuckoo, saying it has become more lucrative since it was driven underground.
As for enforcement, the hunter said police “have to be pushed to do their job” and many of them know the hunters personally.
Also in the documentary, Inspector Ramon Mercieca, head of the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE), which tackles illegal hunting, told Mr Hill that one of his officers had registered to hunt in the last spring hunting season.
Inspector Mercieca described his hunting officer as “an asset”, as he helped to find illegal hunting hides and understood codes used by hunters.
The ALE chief also admitted that lots of his friends were “hunting fanatics”, but this would not prevent him from arresting them if he caught them.
Another part of the documentary focused on the infamous ‘drone’ used by the German Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) to find illegal trapping sites in the last spring hunting season.
CABS leader Axel Hirschfeld told Mr Hill that the ‘drone’ was in fact a model aircraft brought over by German TV channel RTL to film documentary footage, and no permit is required to fly a model aircraft weighing less than 7kg in Malta.
“The police were always with us, they watched live footage,” Mr Hirschfeld said, adding that CABS was planning to bring its own “eye in the sky” to monitor illegal hunting in autumn, if the police permitted it.
The use of the aircraft was angrily opposed by the FKNK, which accused CABS of “spying”. The aircraft was eventually shot down.