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Three white storks shot down, junior minister says perpetrators will find no protection

Hunter seen collecting two of the birds

Video: BirdLife Malta

Updated Saturday 4.20pm with BirdLife statement

Three protected white storks were shot down on Friday, just a few hours after landing in Malta.

Birdlife said the shot birds formed part of a flock of 18 that were spotted in Gozo and later in Rabat and Mdina.

At one point a member of the public witnessed a hunter shooting down three of the storks. The shooter collected two birds but when he realised that he was being watched he left the third behind.

Birdlife said the Administrative Law Enforcement was informed about the incident at around 8.30pm but no response had yet been forthcoming.

They said police from the Rabat district were monitoring some of these birds which had rested in the limits of Żebbuġ.

Birdlife called on the public to keep an eye out for the storks on Saturday and to inform the organisation and the police if they suspected any illegal hunting on these protected species.

Video footage shot by a cyclist showed the birds in all their glory before they were brutally gunned down. 

In a statement issued on Saturday, the organisation said it was clear hunters had failed to self-regulate and that the Prime Minister now had a duty to "act fast", with hundreds of birds of prey set to migrate over Malta in the coming weeks. 

BirdLife added that amendments to rabbit hunting laws which would allow hunters to roam as they hunted would simply make it easier for poachers to target protected birds under the pretence of hunting rabbits. 

Illegalities would not be tolerated - Parliamentary Secretary

Animal Rights Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri told Times of Malta the hunters behind the crime would not find any protection from the government.

“I hope those behind this crime are caught and face all the necessary repercussions,” he said.

Mr Camilleri, who is a hunter himself, said cases such as this put the practice of hunting in a bad light.

“Aside from the hunting season being closed, storks are a protected species which can never be legally hunted,” he said.

The government’s position, he added, had been consistent that illegal hunting would not be tolerated.

'Inexcusable' - St Hubert's Hunters

Mr Camilleri's condemnation was echoed by hunters' lobby group St Hubert's Hunters, which in a statement said the "inexcusable" act by "a few irresponsible criminals" risked painting the entire hunting community in a bad light. 

"Today’s hunters are foremost in educating about protected species and environmental initiatives done to help visiting birds," St Hubert's Hunters said.

The group floated the possibility that the perpetrators did not hold a hunting licence or licenced shotgun, and urged fellow hunters to work with authorities and identify the culprits. 

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