Malta – 30. 11. 2020
Malta: Suspicious ‘bird scientists´ turn out to be poachers
14 cases of illegal finch trapping reported to police – 42 live finches seized
Malta. Field investigations conducted by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) have led to charges against ten bird poachers who claimed to be ´scientists´ after being caught by the police. Criminal proceedings against the men were initiated following reports from CABS after members of the organisation filmed and reported a total of 14 persons for trapping finches without the necessary permits and site registrations . Police officers responding to the reports seized nine sets of clap-nets, two cage traps (trabokki in Maltese) and 42 live birds including Siskins, Hawfinches, Chaffinches, Linnets and Greenfinches. Illegal trapping sites were found in Zurrieq, Has Saptan, Fomm it Rih and Qala, Ta Cenc, Kercem and Zebbug on Gozo.
“When questioned by the police, ten trappers falsely claimed to be participants of the government´s dubious finch study, some even provided fake paperwork to the officers“, CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said; adding that the police on Gozo did not have access the WBRU databank of permitted sites when a CABS team reported illegal trapping in Ta Cenc and Kercem last week. “As they had no official data at hand, the police officers refrained from confiscating the nets and allowed the poachers to continue trapping", Burrows said. However, after an enquiry from CABS, the government´s Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU) subsequently confirmed that no permits were issued for the sites in question. “We expect the police not only to charge these men for illegal trapping but also to inspect their aviaries and investigate them for misleading the police by falsifying documents”, Mrs. Burrows continued. She said that also on Malta poachers tried to avoid punishment by either running away from the police or falsely claiming to be working on the WBRU-project.
CABS and Birdlife Malta have repeatedly criticised Prime Minister Robert Abela and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri for allowing trappers to ‘catch and release’ seven species of birds under the smokescreen of a dubious scientific study. “Wherever our teams operate they observe massive, rampant abuse and practically zero proactive enforcement. The government is taking everybody for a ride when it claims that this is a scientific project while in fact their only intention is to appease the trappers and help them to provide supplies for their aviaries and illegal collections”, CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld stated.