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Junior minister, NGO in hunting social media spat

Camilleri, a hunter, accuses Birdlife of inflating figures

Updated 3.50pm - Added FKNK statement 

Verbal shots were fired on Twitter on Saturday as the junior minister for Animal Rights and conservationists Birdlife made it clear there was no love lost between them.

Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri sparked it all off when he tweeted a Facebook post by an NGO that praised the Maltese hunting community for not letting off a single shot as several raptors flew across Malta this week.

“To our surprise, there was not a single shot as the raptors took to the skies and crossed the hills on the west coast of Malta onward towards Africa. Ten years ago, there would have been dozens of birds killed - a clear sign of a change in the Maltese hunting community and a great success following decades of work,” the Committee Against Bird Slaughter said.

READ: More than 300 raptors spotted over Malta

Birdlife was quick to reply to the Tweet, claiming that at least nine protected birds had been shot on Malta since September 1.

“All of these birds are protected species and continue to highlight the ruthless situation with the #illegalkillingofbirds in Malta. These nine known casualties represent only a small fraction of the protected birds which are being targeted, as many other birds will never be found,” Birdlife said.

Mr Camilleri, himself a hunter, then accused the NGO, along with the independent press, which he put in sardonic single quotes, of "inflating the few illegalities & ignoring all positive news."

Birdlife CEO Mark Sultana, weighed in describing the junior minister’s remarks as “shameful”, challenging Mr Camilleri to prove which of the NGO’s figures were inflated.

He later added that the NGO’s data was the same as that used by the government’s own Wild Birds Regulation Unit. 

In a statement, hunters' lobby FKNK said that it deserved the credit for hunters having reined in their poaching instincts. 

"The FKNK worked tirelessly from the 1990s to end a situation that was reflecting poorly on legal hunting and trapping," it said. "We are proud of what we achieved despite all obstacles".

It acknowledged that there was work to be done to end poaching but praised its members on this occasion. 

Another protected bird shot

As the two sides traded barbs, BirdLife reported that another protected bird - this time a Honey Buzzard - had been found shot. 

The bird was collected in Safi on Friday evening, the eNGO said on Facebook, and was the second of its kind recovered in less than 24 hours.

54 protected birds have been confirmed shot since the start of the year, with 10 of those found since the hunting season opened on September 1. 

"While we can assure Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri that we are not 'inflating' any figures, the statistics speak for themselves on whether the situation has improved or not when compared to recent years," BirdLife said. 

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