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BirdLife seeks hunting ban in nature protection areas

BirdLife Malta today published a map that illustrates the huge increase in the area of countryside that, it said, would be safely accessible to the public if Malta’s nature protection areas were designated as “no-hunting zones”.

The release of the map coincides with the launch of the second banner in BirdLife’s “Your Voice Counts” campaign, which asks the people to demand action from politicians on wildlife and countryside issues.

The map shows Malta and Gozo’s Natura 2000 protected sites, which BirdLife Malta says should be designated as no-hunting areas, along with the areas in Malta and Gozo currently designated as Bird Sanctuaries, where hunting and trapping are prohibited. These last amount to just five per cent of the land area of the Maltese islands, the largest such “sanctuary” being Malta International Airport. Other areas designated as Bird Sanctuaries include Marsa Golf Course and Ta’ Qali Airfield.

BirdLife  also launched the second banner in its “Your Voice Counts” campaign. The banner depicts Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat, gagged with stickers bearing the letters RTO over their mouths.

In a statement to the media Steve Micklewright, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, said, “For years hunters and trappers have been allowed to rule the roost in the Maltese countryside. Successive governments, both Labour and Nationalist, have not only turned a blind eye to illegal occupation, development and restriction of public access, but have actually defended and even rewarded such activities by Malta’s hunters and trappers by creating “hunting reserves” on public land.”

The banner refers to the proliferation of illegal signs and graffiti in the Maltese countryside proclaiming public areas to be “Privat” or “Riservato” and the leaders’ apparent unwillingness or inability to speak about this and other issues relating to wildlife and the countryside in their election campaigns.

As part of its “Your Voice Counts” campaign, BirdLife is asking the public to demand an end to the illegal occupation of the countryside and the banning of hunting and trapping in “nature protection areas” and for all sites that meet the criteria to be given protected status.

The proposals would see the area of the countryside where hunting and trapping is prohibited increase by more than 320 per cent, from 1,686 hectares to 5,455 hectares.

15 per cent of the land area of the Maltese Islands (or 4,836 hectares) is currently protected as Natura 2000 sites due to their international importance for biodiversity.

Almost all of these protected nature areas are (or should be) accessible to the public, either by public roads and footpaths, or as nature parks and reserves, BirdLife said.

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