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CABS interim report lists 207 cases of illegal hunting

Videos show shooting down of Honey Buzzards and illegal trapping
Hunter admits shooting Bee-eaters on Dwejra Lines

Press release 23.09.2011

Bee-eaters are popular with hunters - for target practice! They leave the birds lying on the groundBee-eaters are popular with hunters - for target practice! They leave the birds lying on the groundThe Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) today released the first results of its bird protection camp, which has been running since the 9th of September. The German-based conservation organisation revealed that its team members had to date recorded 207 contraventions of Maltese Hunting Law and the European bird protection guidelines. A number of these have been recorded on video. The offences included 29 direct shooting down or hits on protected bird species. In addition 27 protected birds were found dead or observed in flight with obvious shotgun injuries. These species included a Lesser Spotted Eagle as well as Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards, Kestrels, Bee-eaters, Barn Swallows and Swifts and Finches. Other offences involved the use of automatic weapons and electronic bird lures, illegal trapping and flouting of the afternoon hunting curfew.

These statistics do not include the 12 protected birds found in a 5 metre ditch on the Dwejra Lines by CABS Bird Guards on the 14th of September that were handed over to the police. At this location, exactly four days earlier, a CABS team had observed two men shooting at Bee-eaters, Barn Swallows and other small birds. Committee spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld states. “The men responsible for this massacre were identified by the police from video material provided by us. It shows two individuals who have come to the attention of the police previously in connection with illegal hunting”. “Both of them have admitted shooting the Bee-eaters at this place and time and will now have to reckon with criminal proceedings being taken against them” Hirschfeld concluded.

Marsh Harrier with shotgun injuries at wing jointMarsh Harrier with shotgun injuries at wing jointAnother serious incident took place on the 18th of September in the fields between Fiddien and Mtahleb, where some 80 Marsh Harriers had come to roost shortly before dusk. A BirdLife standing patrol on watch at the site witnessed several persons with torches entering the site around 9.00 pm and firing several shots at the blinded and defenceless birds. A stand-by CABS team was alerted by BirdLife and scanned the area with a thermo-camera. Five persons were located huddled in a darkened vehicle parked on a gated track immediately adjacent to the roosting harriers. The video material was handed over to the Rabat police who called in the owner of the vehicle for assistance in their enquiries. According to CABS, the man at first denied being present at the scene of the crime. When he was shown the conservationists’ video material however he admitted having been in the vicinity of the birds. What further action is being taken in this matter by the authorities is not yet known.

Simultaneous to the release of its interim report, CABS has also published a Youtube video that shows the shooting down of Honey Buzzards in Gudja, Fawwara, Ghar Lapsi and near the Malta International Airport runway. The film also shows Bird Guards extricating dead song birds (2 Red-backed Shrikes and a Common Redstart) from an illegal mist net discovered by them under Nadur Tower, and freeing a living Bee-eater from the same trap. A second illegal clap net was found by a CABS patrol near the Fiddien water reservoir on the 19th of September. It was removed and confiscated by ALE officers. Other film sequences show birds of prey with shotgun injuries in flight, freshly-shot Bee-eaters and the illegal use of electronic bird decoys for Quail hunting. The video can be viewed online here: