Maltese hunters recently shot protected birds around Lake Nasser in Egypt and video footage taken years ago shows this was not a one-off, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter has claimed.

The committee released a video, taken between 2002 and 2004, showing hunters (speaking in Maltese) killing protected birds and laughing as they inspect their catch.

“We decided to publish this video, which is a few years old, to show the public just what these hunting trips are about. We’ve only released eight minutes of about 70 minutes of footage which we have. We decided to hold back from making some of the more graphic and obscene footage public,” said Cabs spokesman Axel Hirschfeld.

The video, which is posted on YouTube, shows a group of Maltese hunters shooting birds on the river. The faces of the hunters are blurred and their voices muffled to protect their identity.

They then pick up the dead birds from the water, using a dinghy, and take them back to a larger hunting boat. The footage shows the men inspecting the quality of their catch that included numerous pelicans, spoonbills, glossy ibis, Egyptian vultures as well as an osprey, a lanner falcon and a Bonelli’s eagle.

Lino Farrugia, president of the Hunters’ Federation, condemned all sorts of illegal hunting, irrespective of where it took place. However, he said, it was no coincidence that Cabs had issued this video now that the hunting season in Malta was approaching.

“This is part of an orchestrated campaign by Cabs and Birdlife to put Maltese hunters in a bad light,” he said.

In a statement issued yesterday Cabs said Egyptian conservationists had recently informed the committee that “several groups of Maltese hunters have shot large numbers of birds around Lake Nasser this year, including protected species.”

Speaking to the Egypt Independent newspaper, one of the conservationists, Sherif Baha el-Din, said: “Maltese hunters are crazy fanatics. They have been bird hunting in Egypt for decades, because Egypt has interesting-looking birds compared to its neighbours”.

This year, the Egyptian government opened the hunting season for the first time since the Avian Flu outbreak in 2008. The season closed last weekend.

Mr Hirschfeld said Cabs was informed that a number of Maltese hunting expeditions went to Egypt over the past months, and a group of nine hunters returned to Malta last Saturday.

“Egypt’s next hunting season is due to open in December and we plan on coordinating with colleagues there and having monitoring teams on-site,” he said.

He added that the committee planned to work closely with Maltese ornithologists and law enforcement agencies to curb the abuse.

The police said they were looking into the matter. They said that anyone caught importing birds illegally in the past had been charged in court.

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