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Malta: CABS publishes poaching statistics for 2014

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has published a data summary of all hunting and trapping related offences and illegalities observed by its teams on Malta and Gozo in 2014. The data where gathered by CABS volunteers and staff members during operations in March to May and from July to December last year.Honey Buzzard with shotgun injuries (Buskett, September 2014)Honey Buzzard with shotgun injuries (Buskett, September 2014)

Over the year the birdwatchers observed a total of 51 cases of hunting of protected species. These included 26 direct obervations of birds being shot down or shot at as well as 24 cases where protected birds with shotgun injuries were observed or found dead. Birds affected by these offences are Marsh Harrier ( 21 ), Kestrel ( 8 ), Honey Buzzard ( 4 ), Montagu´s Harrier ( 3 ), Cuckoo ( 2 ), Osprey( 1 ), Grey heron ( 1 ), Purple, Heron ( 1 ), Grey Wagtail ( 1 ), Falcon sp. ( 1 ), Swift ( 1 ), House Martin ( 1 ), Red footed falcon ( 1 ), Bee eater ( 1 ), Lesser Kestrel ( 1 ), Racing pigeon ( 1 ) as well as 2 White Storks which were filmed being shot down near Maghthab in March last year. Another 70 hunting-related incidents observed by CABS were about modified shotguns ( 26 ), hunting out of season ( 19 cases ), unattended shotguns ( 2 cases ), hunting too close to residential areas ( 3 cases ), hunting too close to a main road ( 2 cases ), overshooting the bag limit ( 2 cases ) and hunting after the curfew times ( 16 cases ).

A total of 98 cases concerned illegal bird trapping activities, all of which were direct observations of trappers actively targeting protected species or trapping out of season. All cases involved illegal trapping devices such as mist nets ( 5 cases ) and various types of cage traps ( 4 cases ) as well as clap nets found outside the trapping season ( 89 cases ). During the official trapping season from October to January another 65 infringements have been reported to the authorities. These included 61 cases of suspected new trapping sites illegally built within Natura-2000 sites, 2 cases of destruction of protected garrigue and 2 cases of illegal night trapping. Species affected by these illegal trapping activities were Robin, Wheatear, Redshank, Dotterel, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Quail, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Siskin.

The average response time of the ALE (as measured by the analysis of a total of 80 cases which involved police support) was 47 minutes ranging from 3 to 150 minutes. CABS also said that police response during the hunting season was much quicker than in March and summer when many ALE officers have to fulfil other duties. Confiscation following CABS reports included numerous trapping paraphanelia as well as 50 live protected birds.

The use of illegal bird callers for hunting or trapping was recorded 251 times. The cases include fixed static installations as well as mobile devices operated by hand. Most of the machines imitated the song of Quail ( 120 times ) and Golden Plover ( 54 times ) whereas others played waders ( 31 ), Song Thrush ( 27 ), ducks ( 5 ), Dotterel ( 4 ), finches ( 2 ), Skylark ( 2 ), Ortolan Bunting ( 2 times ), Stone Curlew ( 2 ), Water Rail ( 1 ) and Lapwing ( 1 ). Night operations with the ALE in spring and with the local police in autumn led to the confiscation of a total of 14 automatic callers.

The top five locations for highest number of illegalities recorded by the birdwatchers are Fiddien, Dingli, Safi, Fomm ir Rih and St. Thomas Bay (Delimara).

In a total of 23 of all trapping and hunting related cases the perpetrators were either filmed red-handed or identified and/or arrested by the police. Some of them have not been taken to court yet or - if they were taken to court - the result is unknown. A total of 13 persons (all male) have already been sentenced to pay fines ranging from 500 to 1500 Euros. 3 hunting/ trapping licences were revoked for a period of one year.