Purple Heron And Others Shot Out Of Malta’s Skies – Illegally
Thousands of birds fill the skies between Europe and Africa during their bi-annual migration, their weary wings silhouetted against the sun, an ancient migration that signals the changing seasons. However, over Malta, they are consistently unsafe.
Despite charged efforts by both BirdLife Malta and CABS (Committee Against Bird Slaughter), and laws that apply throughout the European Union, illegal Maltese hunters continue to use these birds for target practice. This time last year, according to the BBC, over 200 birds were found by volunteers trying to deter hunters. This year, despite increased police presence, paid for by both birding organizations, and volunteers from ten different countries, the hunt has already begun.“A Common Kestrel, a Purple Heron- a species of Conservation Concern in Europe -, a Grey Heron, a Night Heron and a little bittern have all been passed to Birdlife with pellets embedded internally,” according to Wildlife Extra. Add to this list Osprey, Honey Buzzards, and even Oystercatchers and Shelduck that are hunted illegally from powerboats.
As part of the BirdLife’s Raptor Camp and CABS Operation Safe Passage, 68 volunteers will stage camps in areas known for hunting in order to protect as many birds as possible.
However, they do so at a certain level of peril. Earlier this year two men were arrested for assaulting volunteers in Dingli – though they were arrested – and others have shot through a bird enthusiasts’ back windshield to ruffle their feathers.
While it is legal to hunt turtle dove, quail, woodcock, and duck, so far three species have already gone extinct as a result of hunting species outside of this prescription, including the Peregrine falcon, the Barn owl, and the Jackdaw.
This hunting season, additional police staff have been hired in order to help curb the hunt, an expense that will be covered by BirdLife. However, there is a sense that the authorities have reneged their duty to assert sufficient pressure on poachers.
“Both organisations stated that those who seem to be uncomfortable with their presence in the countryside are mostly criminals who do not want to be caught breaking the bird protection and hunting laws, as law abiding hunters had nothing to hide,” according to WE.
Some birders have boycotted Malta, and will only consider birding there when illegal hunting desists.
“We would love to go there, having been birding in Spain (Mallorca:Minorca:Extramadura:Pyrenees), Greece, Austria etc. BUT not until the killing stops,” Chas Lankester commented on the WE forum.
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