Comments by camp participants
See also One week on Malta an article by Jonny Blair, Belfast, N. Ireland
The photo (right) shows some of the Malta camp participants from Germany, Italy, Poland, UK and USA who took part in the search of the Mizieb 'bird cemetery' on 20 and 21 September 2009.
M.B., Bulgaria, Team 2009 Malta writes:
"I had a very good experience during my first time as bird guard with CABS. The team were very welcoming and committed and I was treated as a team member immediately.
I think spending most of my time with one of the more experienced guards helped enormously in giving me a better idea of the role and associated boundaries. We set off just before first light to monitor and patrol designated hunting hot-spots around the area. Staying out for 3-4 hours our purpose was to disrupt, discourage and collect evidence where possible of illegal hunting practices. Most interaction with hunters was positive and we even received some welcome words of encouragement from a few of the more forward thinking hunters. I did hear reports from others of negative experiences when confronted by angry hunters but nothing appeared to be too serious. (This changed in the 3rd week! DC)
Personally I very much appreciated the sense of humour of most of the team; it helped make me feel an accepted member. I had a great week and am looking forward to repeating it when called upon."
MALTA & BRESCIA (ITALY)
A.B., USA, Team Malta and Brescia 2009 writes:
"What can I do?" Some of us wonder this every day...to make a positive difference in the world". I wonder and I lament (!), that humanity could conclude that it is not quality of life BUT politics, economies and individual wealth that really matter. This is our mantra, the voice of the majority, a key result of the industrial age that we nurture and celebrate, that we embed in the minds of our children...and so, the madness, the essentially unchecked consumption of wild places and their residents, continues.
I can and should do more so I am grateful...that CABS made it possible for me to assist in their anti-poaching efforts in Malta and Italy...that CABS introduced me to so many exceptional people...that CABS is out there in the universe doing what they do, trying to stem the madness, trying to protect the defenceless, trying to ensure that in less than fifty years there is still any quality of life left on Earth. I am grateful, I am inspired (by the efforts of CABS) and I am in CABS' debt, thank you."
G.S., UK, Brescia 2009 writes:
I joined the CABS annual anti poaching camp in Brescia in Northern Italy for a week in October 2009. Bird slaughter in the Mediterranean is something that everyone should be disgusted by and don’t grace the people that do it with the title “hunters”, they are just bird killers, but what can you do about it? For those who want to do more than write letters, CABS is the ideal solution. Brescia in Northern Italy is a terrible area for bird persecution. Hunting is still legal, due to dispensations of EU laws to the hunters, supported by the local politicians. But trapping with nets, snap traps and the medieval bow trap, known as Archetti, is very much illegal. So, since all hunters are poachers and all poachers are hunters, if you can catch a hunter poaching, you can bring him to court and confiscate his traps, nets, guns and license.
After I arrived I was soon inducted into the friendly team of volunteers in our comfortable hotel. I approached the first day in the field with some apprehension, but was very well trained by the experienced volunteers. Under such conditions, you form close links with your counterparts, and people who were complete strangers a day before become trusted colleagues, and the desire not to let them, and yourself down, keeps you going. This is conservation very much at the sharp end, very rewarding and climbing up mountains all day I lost 7 pounds in a week, which was excellent for my waistline.
It was quite an emotional week - Anger at the scale and pointlessness of the bird killing, respect and admiration for the other volunteers, and teenage vandalistic happiness at destroying traps when we found them! All in all, a very rewarding week and I hope to go back."
F.B., Nottingham,UK, Team Malta 2010 comments:
Having worked in conservation for many years, I was well prepared for the CABS bird protection camp. It was an awe-inspiring week in which I learned so much and felt I had really contributed to practical bird conservation. The stunning scenery and breath-taking birds flying overhead en-route to their wintering grounds is something that has to be experienced.
During this week-long bird protection camp in Malta I took part in monitoring migration of birds such as Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), Lesser Spotted Eagle (Aquila pomarina) Bee Eater (Merops apiaster), Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and Montagu’s Harrier (Circus pygargus). I recorded details of bird species and abundance, and of shots fired and illegal hunting practices. By providing a highly visible presence I deterred hunters from illegally shooting protected bird species, and used video and photographic recording to gather evidence. With CABS I took part in a search of the Mizieb woodland with BirdLife Malta, where nearly ninety dead birds were discovered stashed under boulders. In the press conference which was called afterwards I was interviewed and filmed by several news teams, including Times of Malta. I aided in night time operations on Gozo where illegal trapping practices were occurring to catch Dotterel in clap nets. I met the German Ambassador for Malta and his associates, explaining the work being done and its importance for bird conservation. During this week I was filmed for a Bavarian TV documentary on Maltese bird slaughter, to be aired on 24th October 2010.
All the staff and volunteers were welcoming, knowledgeable, helpful and passionate about nature conservation, and I made some great friends from various countries. There was a lot of support from each other, the ALE, security staff and police, and I thank them for all the hard work they put in and for making our safety the first priority. I had a memorable, exciting and rewarding week, and intend to return to Malta in the future to aid bird protection again.
Here is a list of birds I spotted: Dotterel, Honey Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Montagu’s Harrier, Hobby, Sardinian Warbler, Night Heron, Bee Eater, Eleonora’s Falcon, Nightjar, Tawny Pipit, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Osprey, Blue Rock Thrush, Fan Tailed Warbler, Kestrel and Yellow Wagtail.
J.B., Belfast, UK: Team Malta 2010 comments:
I had a brilliant time in Malta. I must admit I had butterflies in my stomach on the first day, however after meeting everyone they soon disappeared. All the CABS members are warm and welcoming people. They have such a passion for what they do, you cannot help but be inspired to go out and give it your all. I soon realised that compared to everyone else, I knew next to nothing about birds. I learned a lot while there and feel grateful CABS for letting me go to Malta with them.
As a volunteer I was there to act as a deterrent to illegal hunting. It is such a thrill to see a bird continue on it's journey safely all because a few people got up early in the morning and let their presence known to a few short sighted hunters. I had some unique experiences on Malta. Meeting the German Ambassador for one, being involved in press conferences, and being filmed for Bavarian TV. The biggest thrill was to be able to see species that I would not otherwise have had the chance to see in the U.K. Species such as Honey buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Blue Rock Thrush, Hoopoe, Bee-eater and many more.