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BirdLife continues to receive shot protected birds

This Barn Swallow was last Monday recovered shot from Rabat and handed over to the ALE for rehabilitation. Photo: Paul Webb, BirdLife

This Barn Swallow was last Monday recovered shot from Rabat and handed over to the ALE for rehabilitation. Photo: Paul Webb, BirdLife

BirdLife has continued to receive shot protected birds and reports of widespread shooting and killing of birds of prey and herons, particularly following unstable weather over the Mediterranean this last week, the organisation said.

It said that the stormy weather at the beginning of the week brought in a considerable migration of falcons and kestrels.

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, BirdLife received five Common Kestrels with verified gunshot injuries.

Three had to be euthanized by a veterinarian owing to the multiple fractures and open wounds caused by gunshot, while the other two were passed over to the ALE for rehabilitation. Kestrels coming in over Buskett to roost were also shot at yesterday afternoon, BirdLife said.

It said that over the weekend, birdwatchers witnessed large flocks of Night Herons, Grey Herons, Purple Herons and Little Egrets from different locations.

After the mid-day storm of last Saturday, a flock of nine Night Herons which made its way inland, was met with a barrage of gunshots in Fgura, resulting in at least three shot down along the Cottonera fortifications.

Two Little Egrets were later in the afternoon shot at in the Buskett area, while a Grey Heron was shot at in Mellieha on Sunday and another killed in Girgenti on Monday.

Other reports of illegal hunting on birds of prey include shooting at and killing of Osprey, Short Toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Sparrow Hawk and Marsh Harriers.

BirdLife has also received four shot honey buzzards, one of which was retrieved metres away from the Prime Minister’s residence in Marsascala last Saturday.

Rare migrants observed in the last few days have also been targeted such as a Black Stork gunned down in Hal Far and a Greater Flamingo chased by sea hunters.

Earlier this morning a Black Stork which had just escaped shots fired from Qala in Gozo, was gunned down by sea hunters over the Gozo channel. The sea hunters handed the stork over to two individuals on motorbikes in Qala before heading back out to sea.

Since the end of Raptor Camp in September further shot and injured birds were recovered by BirdLife staff including; a Barn Swallow, Blue Rock Trush, and two Night Herons, the organisation said.

It said that the shot birds it received were the tip of the iceberg. The chances of BirdLife receiving a shot protected bird was very remote as the bird had to first escape the hunter, then be found by someone who was willing to handle it and take it to BirdLife.

The number of shot protected birds that were being given to government authorities is not known to BirdLife Malta.

“Since the end of Raptor Camp, BirdLife office received 14 shot protected birds and only two legally huntable birds, a Common Quail and a Moorhen. Since there are around 12,000 licensed shooters in Malta who can legally shoot over 30 bird species, this disproportion between the huntable species and protected species BirdLife office receive suggests that protected birds continue to be prized targets in Malta,” Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta executive director said.

He said that Malta, as an EU member state, had an obligation to enforce the Birds Directive.

Lack of strong law enforcement in the countryside, coupled with low fines at the courts, encouraged poachers who flouted national and EU laws.

“We once again call on the government to immediately establish a wildlife crime unit and increase the minimum penalties to a level that would act as serious deterrent,” he said.

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