Printer-friendly version

Press release - Monday, 4 August 2014

CABS uncover widespread bird trapping

5 men to be taken to court - Massive ´underground trap´ found near Ta´ Qali

Illegal wader trapping site with pond (Bingemma, 31 July 2014)Illegal wader trapping site with pond (Bingemma, 31 July 2014)Malta. Persons unknown have turned an empty water reservoir at Ta´ Qali into a giant bird trap, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today. Volunteers of CABS discovered the site Saturday afternoon when they followed the calls of an illegal bird caller imitating the songs of protected bird species. The search led to a deep basin covering an area of 40x20 metres. On the bottom of the reservoir trappers had set up 5 vertical mist nets and several plastic bird decoys around a puddle of water. “The whole structure has been transformed into a massive underground trap which was exclusively designed to attract and catch protected birds out of the sight of the police”, CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows reports. ALE officers were alerted and climbed down into the 10 metre-deep basin to remove the nets and electronic bird caller. Investigations to reveal the identity of the poachers and the owner of the reservoir are ongoing.

Green Sandpiper seized by police on Malta (July 2014)Green Sandpiper seized by police on Malta (July 2014)The find in Ta´ Qali is only one out of 10 illegal bird trapping sites which have been found by CABS and dismantled by the police in the last 8 days. “These installations pose a huge threat to birds, and often other wildlife such as hedgehogs and snakes become entangled and die”, Miss Burrows stated, "In previous years there have been much fewer sites detected. This increase in trapping sites for waders demonstrates a worrying upward trend in illegal trapping in a country where some of these species are trying to breed". Active clap nets and illegal bird callers as well as numerous live protected birds were confiscated in Kirkop, Bingemma, Ghaxaq, Zabbar, Marsaskala, Hal-Far, L-Ahrax and Zejtun. The police confirmed that at least 5 persons will be charged in connection with the finds. 11 live protected birds, among them 4 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Common Sandpipers, 3 Green Sandpipers and 1 Wood Sandpiper have been released in the Ghadira nature reserve last Thursday. One Green Sandpiper died before it could be released.

Aerial picture of illegal trapping site in Zejtun with 3 sets of active clapnets amd plastic decoys (July 2014 )Aerial picture of illegal trapping site in Zejtun with 3 sets of active clapnets amd plastic decoys (July 2014 )CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld declared the operation “a massive blow against poaching and a very positive example of successful co-operation between the police and an NGO to eradicate illegal bird trapping“. He stressed that the solving of these cases is the result of several weeks of investigations which included aerial surveys and long-term-observations of single installations. He praised the police for their quick reaction and demanded that all trappers involved should automatically be excluded from receiving a special licence for trapping in autumn. CABS announced that it will continue its operations against illegal wader trapping until mid-september.

Waders are medium-sized birds associated with wetland or coastal environments. The group contains several families including sandpipers, plovers, lapwings, stints and curlews. Most species of arctic and temperate regions are strongly migratory. On Malta they belong to the earliest migrants of the season with a peak in late July until mid-August. Some species are highly priced on the black market. Single individuals can be sold for more than 500 Euros per bird. CABS estimate that each summer several thousands of waders are caught illegally on Malta and Gozo.