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'Thousands' of turtle doves shot down, poacher filmed

Hunters observed shooting from trees, throwing rocks at trees...

Photo: CABS

Photo: CABS

Updated at 8.04pm with hunters' denial.

Irresponsible hunters continue to shoot turtle doves even if the practice is strictly protected this spring, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said on Thursday.

“As soon as the first flocks of migrating turtle doves arrived last week the number of gunshots fired in areas suitable for turtle dove skyrocketed,” CABS wildife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.

She added that hunters have been observed shooting from within trees, sitting inside tower hides, throwing rocks into trees and using wires with empty cans to disturb turtle doves from trees.

“This is what hunters do if they want to shoot turtle doves whereas hunting quail requires a completely different method (drive hunt), dogs and an open environment,” the ornithologist added.

Last Thursday, CABS activists observed hunters shooting down several turtle doves in the Fawwarra area at around 7 am. The police were informed and searched the area but were not able to apprehend anyone. Shots at turtle doves were also recorded on the Marfa Ridge, Għar Lapsi and Għargħur last week, CABS said.

On Thursday morning, a CABS team stationed in l-Aħrax observed and filmed a hunter killing and collecting a turtle dove which fell into a small pine forest.

The footage, which clearly shows the man's face and the protected bird in his hand, was passed on to the police who are investigating the case.

A common kestrel shot in Siggiewi.A common kestrel shot in Siggiewi.

“We urge the authorities to do their utmost to identify this irresponsible hunter and bring him to court,” Ms Burrows stated.

Change in season dates led to massacre - BirdLife

Meanwhile, BirdLife said that thousands of turtle doves were believed to have been shot despite the fact that the season was supposedly open only for quail.

"It is clear that this happened because this year’s spring hunting season dates were moved purposely to coincide with the peak migration of this protected bird. Up till Thursday morning's press conference BirdLife Malta and the police had retrieved 10 illegally shot protected birds.

Another injured bird was received during the press conference, and it was shown to the journalists present at BirdLife Malta’s offices before being taken to the vet who later on confirmed it was also shot. This raises the total of illegally shot protected birds retrieved to 11.

"These are only a small percentage of the birds shot since many other species were seen either being targeted or actually carrying clear signs of gunshot injuries," BirdLife said. 

According to data which the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU), despite the thousands of shots heard all over the country in the past two weeks, the number of quails declared shot were a mere 229.

Hunters' denial

Kaccaturi San Ubertu, a hunters' association, said it wanted to emphatically deny allegations that thousands of shot have been heard.

"KSU members who are conducting their annual Spring Migration Observation Survey in 30 locations around the islands record a very different reality. The said survey will be forwarded the European Commission as a true representation of fact regarding migration and the availability of quail throughout this spring hunting season. Observations so far point to a very poor season with very few birds sighted and even less caught."

KSU said it supported sustainable hunting and strict observance of hunting regulations and practices a policy of zero tolerance.  

It said it condemns all the 'orchestrated bad propaganda' byanti-hunterss aimed at tarnishing law abiding hunters.

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