A protected black stork was shot in San Blas Valley, Gozo, yesterday and died minutes after it was rescued, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter said.

CABS said the bird was shot in the afternoon and was recovered after a painstaking search by its officials.

However, it died in the arms of its rescuers moments before it could be handed over to the Gozo police.

It was clearly identified as a juvenile bird that had fledged only a few months earlier before building up the strength to leave on its first migration to its winter quarters in Africa.

The search for the bird was triggered off by an eyewitness who reported the shooting to the Birdlife office in Malta.

Birdlife alerted the CABS team in Gozo who then organised the search with the police.

“We are extremely grateful to the vigilant witnesses and all police officers involved in the incident for their assistance and prompt reaction,” David Conlin, CABS team leader in Gozo, said.

CABS pointed out that the shooting of the stork was the “tragic climax” of a series of illegal killings of protected bird species on Sunday.

Earlier in the day, CABS teams on the Ġebel Ciantar plateau in Malta observed hunters shooting down two honey buzzards en route from their night roost in Buskett Gardens to the coast.

Police officers from the Administration Law Enforcement Unit unsuccessfully searched the area for the birds.

Two more birds were shot at but flew on unharmed, CABS said.

Near Safi, a CABS team filmed three attempts to shoot a marsh harrier. The injured bird continued, visibly weakened, it said.

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