Birdlife Malta – The autumn hunting season 2016

A shameful start with 32 known protected birds shot down, the latest being a Peregrine Falcon in Imqabba

At the end of this week, it will have been a month and a half since the start of the autumn hunting season on 1st September.

This year Birdlife Malta witnessed a massacre of protected species with a total of 32 known protected birds shot down, the latest case which they are announcing today being that of a Peregrine Falcon – an iconic species for Malta – which happened at the beginning of this week in Imqabba. The Peregrine Falcon, whom many call the ‘Maltese Falcon’, had to be euthanized due to the grievous injuries it suffered with a gunshot. These are the illegal hunting incidents Birdlife Malta are aware of since there are without any shadow of doubt countless others, besides the larger than usual number of injured birds which our ornithologists and birdwatchers observed during the period when raptor migration reached its peak. The list is huge, with more than 120 illegalities observed to date. BirdLife Malta possesses evidence related to more than 70 of these incidents.

Peregrine Falcon shot-down in Imqabba - Photo © Nicholas Barbara

Peregrine Falcon shot-down in Imqabba – Photo © Nicholas Barbara

This is what you get when hunting is permitted without any enforcement. Although Malta has around 100 hunters who also shoot with their camera, we have to bear in mind that Malta is a small country with very limited natural space, has a total of 10,000 hunters who do not think twice to break the law if and when they are aware that enforcement is lacking so they can get away with it.

This was stated by BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana during a press conference earlier this morning in Valletta where he listed the hunting illegalities reported up to now this autumn hunting season (see list below).

He also spoke about the Government’s legal notice of the past few days announcing the bird trapping season from 20th October, despite the fact that Malta is facing legal action by the European Commission over allowing the trapping of seven species of finch.

With the help of footage and photo evidence which was collected through BirdLife Malta’s annual Raptor Camp which has now come to an end, Mark Sultana explained that with this year’s massacre of protected birds we are back to the old days and it is more than evident that the lack of action by the authorities has left a negative impact, with more rampant abuse taking place. Admittedly, the authorities themselves are saying that enforcement by the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit this year was boosted late in the season, giving out the excuse that this happened because migration of raptors peaked earlier than usual. Birds themselves paid the price for this and up to now – as far as we know – nobody has been arraigned.

It is a pity that as the situation deteriorated day by day the Government did not heed BirdLife Malta’s earlier calls for the suspension of the autumn hunting season so that birds of prey migrating over Malta could make a safe passage. This would have led to this year’s massacre being avoided. But instead of taking action, the Government passed the buck onto the Ornis Committee contrary to what happened in previous years when it did not wait for Ornis to take a decision and did not hesitate to close the season at the very first illegality as evidence published by BirdLife Malta over the past few weeks goes to prove.

Is it a coincidence that the Government is not willing to take any action? What is it afraid of? Could the upcoming general elections be the reason? It is worth noting that everytime an election is getting near enforcement becomes ineffective and BirdLife Malta fears that after this year’s lack of action, next year will be worse as the date of the election gets nearer and nearer. It is more than evident that when hunters are given a free ride, illegalities increase and this year is a case in point.

It is also indeed a pity that we are witnessing uncontrolled illegal hunting when during this migration season we have observed a considerable number of rarities over the Maltese Islands, registering new bird records for Malta in some cases. This goes to confirm that Malta forms part of an important flyway for such birds which migrate over our country on their way to Africa from Finland, Italy and other countries in East and central Europe.

In these circumstances BirdLife Malta insists on the importance of the establishment of a Wildlife Crime Unit for Malta. This specialised unit would strengthen the police to be in a position to combat criminal acts related to nature and environmental law enforcement. It is clear that Malta needs a stronger law enforcement agency within the police force to work closely with NGOs to safeguard the birds and nature of our islands.

Finally, a word of thanks must go to the general public who care for our animals and birds and act accordingly, cooperating with BirdLife Malta and reporting any abuse.
“We urge the public to continue doing so and apart from reporting to us and the police also to support us in the work we do by becoming members. We have just launched ‘Help us fly’, a membership drive to encourage more people to join us” stated BirdLife Malta’s CEO.

A number of other BirdLife Malta officials also addressed today’s press conference including BirdLife’s Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara and Conservation Coordinator and Raptor Camp leader Nick Piludu.

List of known illegalities since the start of the autumn hunting season 2016

  • September6th (i) Yellow-legged Gull shot down at Valletta (1)
  • 10th (i) At least 3 Night Herons shot at Wied ir-Rum, limits of Dingli (2-4)
  •         (ii) 2 Bee-eaters shot dead at Tal-Virtù in Rabat (5-6)
  •         (iii) Golden Oriole shot down at Manikata (7)
  • 12th (i) 2 Black Storks shot down in Gozo (8-9)
  •          (ii) At least 1 injured White Stork observed
  • 13th (i) Honey Buzzard shot down at Ħal Far (10)
  • 14th (i) Honey Buzzard shot down at Tal-Virtù and filmed by CABS (11)
  •         (ii) Injured Grey Heron filmed by CABS in Ħal Far
  •        (iii) Freshly killed Cuckoo discovered by CABS at Tal-Virtù (12)
  •        (iv) 3 stuffed protected birds (Purple Heron, Short Eared Owl and Golden Oriole) found by CABS in ditch at Ħal Far (13-15)
  • 15th (i) Honey Buzzard shot down at Tal-Virtù in Rabat filmed by CABS (16)
  • 17th (i) At least 3 Honey Buzzards killed in Gozo, 1 of them retrieved from the sea (17-19)
  • 19th BirdLife Malta Raptor Camp 2016 starts 20th (i) Illegal trapping in Imtaħleb during closed season
  •                                                                                             (ii) Illegal electronic callers for Linnets found at Imtaħleb
  • 21st (i) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at St Thomas Bay
  •         (ii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra Point
  •         (iii) Stuffed Honey Buzzard found dumped by the side of the road at Pembroke (not from this year)
  • 22nd (i) Injured Marsh Harrier observed at Laferla Cross
  •           (ii) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Delimara
  •          (iii) Injured Grey Heron retrieved from Żejtun farmhouse courtyard (20)
  •          (iv) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Imtaħleb
  •          (v) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Imtaħleb
  • 23rd (i) Injured Marsh Harrier observed in flight at Laferla Cross
  • 24th (i) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Dwejra Lines
  •         (ii) Grey Heron shot at Dwejra, Gozo (21)
  •        (iii) Northern Wheatear shot at Delimara (22)
  •        (iv) Honey Buzzard shot at Fawwara filmed by CABS (23)
  •        (v) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Clapham Junction
  •       (vi) Shot Honey Buzzard observed at Ġebel Ciantar
  •       (vii) Injured Hobby observed at Buskett
  •       (viii) Injured Red Kite observed at Buskett
  •       (ix) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Qawra Point
  • 25th (i) Bee-eater shot down at Girgenti
  •          (ii) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Qawra Point
  •          (iii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Imtaħleb
  • 26th (i) Illegal electronic callers for Dotterel found at Imtaħleb
  •          (ii) Injured Kestrel observed at Fawwara (iii) Bee-eater shot at Laferla Cross
  •          (iv) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Imtaħleb
  • 27th (i) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra Point
  • 28th (i) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra Point
  •          (ii) Purple Heron shot at Delimara
  • 29th (i) Illegal electronic callers for finches found at Imtaħleb
  •         (ii) Grey Heron shot down at Imtaħleb (24)
  •        (iii) Kestrel shot down at Imtaħleb (25)
  • 30th (i) Illegal electronic callers for Dotterel and Golden Plover found at St Thomas Bay
  •          (ii) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Birżebbuġa
  •         (iii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra PointOctober1st (i) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra Point
  •      (ii) Barn Swallow shot at Girgenti
  •     (iii) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Fawwara
  • 2nd (i) Honey Buzzard shot at Delimara
  •        (ii) Honey Buzzard shot at Luqa
  •        (iii) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Girgenti
  • 3rd (i) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at St Thomas Bay
  •        (ii) Injured Marsh Harrier observed at Buskett
  • 4th (i) Illegal electronic callers for unknown species found at Dwejra Lines
  •        (ii) 2 House Martins shot dead at Binġemma Gap (26-27)
  •        (iii) Kestrel shot at Binġemma
  •        (iv) Illegal electronic callers for waders at Qawra Point
  • 5th (i) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at St Thomas Bay
  •       (ii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra Point
  • 6th (i) Common Kestrel killed at Delimara (28)
  •        (ii) Two Kestrels shot down at Imtaħleb (29-30)
  •        (iii) Injured Osprey observed at Buskett
  •        (iv) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Delimara
  • 7th (i) Kestrel shot down at Clapham Junction (31)
  •        (ii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Qawra Point
  •        (iii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Imtaħleb
  • 8th (i) Illegal electronic callers for Quail found at Clapham Junction
  •        (ii) Illegal electronic callers for waders found at Dingli
  • 9th BirdLife Malta Raptor Camp 2016 ends 10th (i) Peregrine Falcon shot down at Imqabba (32)

Numbers in brackets and in bold represent known protected birds shot down this season from 1st September to 10th October 2016 for a total of 32. The numbers correspond to BirdLife Malta’s press releases issued since the start of the season. Luckily the two Grey Herons (Żejtun, 22nd September and Dwejra Gozo, 24th September) survived. This comprehensive list contains only illegalities of which BirdLife Malta has evidence. The total list of illegalities observed surpasses 120

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