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PRESS RELEASE 24 April 2017

CABS film gang of 5 Turtle-Dove trappers in Mellieha
Police needed two hours to arrive - Trapped birds neither released nor confiscated

One of the Mellieha trappers walks to his clapnetOne of the Mellieha trappers walks to his clapnetIn a covert operation activists of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter on Saturday documented how a group of five men trapped protected Turtle Doves in a fenced property directly below the Red Tower in Mellieha. The NGO said it has filmed more than two hours of footage which show the poachers sitting in a hide together and activating a more than 20 meter-long clap net. The film also shows how two of the men retrieve trapped birds from the net and place them into a large aviary which contained about 45 live Turtle Doves. According to CABS at least one of the men is a known poacher with at least 2 prior convictions related to illegal bird trapping and hunting as well as for threatening behaviour. The latter is also the owner of the property where the net was set up.

“We called the police at around 7:15 am and told them that they have the opportunity to arrest five poachers at one sweep but unfortunately they needed nearly two hours to meet with our team which was stationed about two kilometers away from the Red Tower”, CABS General Secretary Alexander Heyd said adding that at this point of the time the trappers were still trapping. but shortly after the officers left the CABS team the trappers started to remove the net which they stashed in a bush. "It was obvious that they saw the police car or have been tipped off".

Trapped Turtle DovesTrapped Turtle DovesThe police car reached the site at 9:25 am – 130 minutes after CABS made its initial report. CABS was informed that the officers did neither find a net nor any trapped birds. While the police was still at the site enforcement officers of the Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU) met with CABS team to inspect the video evidence on a Laptop. “They saw where the trappers stashed the net which was later found and confiscated. They also agreed with us that the Turtle Doves in the aviary were likely to be illegally caught and announced that the birds will be immediately released”, Heyd stated. “We were looking forward to see the birds fly free but unfortunately this did not happen. Instead it was decided that the birds will remain in the aviary as – according to the police -there was not enough evidence that they were wild-caught". The CABS team leader then insisted that the birds should be seized because the aviary was used as a depot for trapped birds which should also be regarded as corpus delicti as they were used as decoys to lure other Turtle Doves to the net. “We strongly expressed our opposition against this decision but WBRU refused to confiscate the birds arguing that there was no place where the birds could be kept until the case was heard at the court”, Alexander Heyd reports.

It is not known if the birds in the aviary have been released or confiscated in the meantime.