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Rare, protected spoonbills shot

This hunter reportedly fired six shots at passing protected spoonbills, just a few metres away from residences in Marsascala. Photo: Birdlife Malta.

This hunter reportedly fired six shots at passing protected spoonbills, just a few metres away from residences in Marsascala. Photo: Birdlife Malta.

Hunters illegally targeted rare, protected spoonbills as a record three flocks totalling around 70 birds sought shelter in the southeast from gale force winds over the past two days, Birdlife said yesterday.

Many vehicles followed the birds along the coast as the flocks dispersed to seek roost sites, the conservation NGO said in a statement.

Birdlife said it received several reports of illegal hunting, including a report of 11 spoonbills being killed in Delimara. The reports were forwarded to the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit, which sent patrols to the area.

Fieldworkers said they heard over 25 shots from St Thomas Bay and several more from Delimara, where a team was told the ALE had confiscated a shotgun.

Birdlife also received photos of a hunter who fired six shots at spoonbills within a few metres of residences in Marsascala. The photos were passed onto the ALE.

Yesterday morning at least 13 shots were heard in the St Thomas Bay area. Only six spoonbills were seen leaving their roosts, one of which had a dangling leg – an injury consistent with gunshot injuries – Birdlife said.

“These so-called hunters have shot at protected species during the closed season on their migration to their breeding grounds,” said Nicholas Barbara, Birdlife Malta policy and conservation officer. “The spoonbill is listed under Annex I of the Bird Directive and is considered a rare bird in Europe. We are hopeful the remaining spoonbills have made it safely off the islands,” he added.

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