Hunting and poaching on Malta
The Hunting Laws
Maltese hunting law permits the hunting of 32 migrant and resident bird species. These include the Skylark, Common Quail, Turtle Dove, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Ruff and five thrush species. In addition several species of ducks, sawbills and geese may be shot at sea from motor boats. In addition to the some 13,000 registered hunters there are also about 3,000 trappers who are legally permitted to catch Golden Plover, Quail, Turtle Doves and thrushes. The hunting season runs from the beginning of September to the end of January - one of the longest seasons in the whole of the EU.
The consequences of hunting on Malta are catastrophic for many European migrant bird species. Birds such as the Honey Buzzard and the Golden Oriole, which migrate twice a year over the Maltese islands, show a dramatic population decline in their northern breeding habitats. Almost all migrant birds legally huntable on Malta are in the meantime on the German Red List of endangered species and the Golden Plover, Lapwing and Skylark are critically endangered.
Poaching - shooting of protected species
In addition to the legal hunters the toll taken by poachers has to be taken into account. Their targets are strictly protected birds of prey, herons and other large bird species. Experts estimate that about half a million migrant birds are shot each year on Malta and Gozo, the majority of which are individuals of strictly protected species.
Only a minimal number of birds shot end up in the pot. Small song birds such as Swifts, Spanish Sparrows and Swallows, whose agile flight makes them ideal moving targets, are used simply for shooting practice and left lying where they fall. Large or particularly colourful birds such as raptors, Golden Oriole, European Roller or Flamingos are shot illegally to be stuffed, mounted and sold to collectors. Some hunters shoot these species however only for the momentary thrill and simply throw away the rarities like a piece of rubbish (that is also to be found littering most of the countryside!). In some areas of Malta remains of illegally shot birds of prey have been found concealed under every third stone!
Poaching on Malta counteracts the conservation efforts made in other EU states to protect endangered species. A case in point was the shooting down of Sigmar the Lesser Spotted Eagle. This bird was reared as part of a conservation project in Germany and shot down over Malta. CABS therefore organises annually its large scale international bird protection camp and campaigns in order to curb and combat poaching on Malta more effectively.
The costs of the operations on Malta are financed from donations donations collected mainly in Germany and with the support of the Foundation for Biodiversity. Your help in the form of a donation, however small, will us help to field and equip adequate personnel for this important task in spring and summer each year.