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Press release 24.9.2012

CABS films excessive hunting of birds of prey in Safi

Unknown persons leave a dead rat and shot Marsh Harrier at observation post

Shot Marsch harrier at Bingemma fort (20.09.2012)Shot Marsch harrier at Bingemma fort (20.09.2012) The international conservation organisation Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has today released interim results, including video footage, from the first week of Operation ‘Honey Buzzard’ that has been conducted on Malta and Gozo since a week ago Saturday. CABS volunteers have registered to date the shooting down of more than 25 protected birds and have managed to record most of these incidents on film. In addition a freshly-shot Marsh Harrier, a live Hoopoe with gunshot wounds, a badly wounded Grey Heron and 13 dead Bee-eaters were discovered in various locations on Malta and Gozo.

The hotspot of poaching activity this past week has been the area around the international airport. A total of 10 birds of prey and a Grey Heron have been shot down or shot at around Safi over the past nine days. Committee spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld comments: “As far as hunting is concerned total anarchy rules in Safi. The police are doing their utmost but the use of their normal reactive tactics in the difficult terrain, with a maze of high walls and trees offering ideal concealment for the poachers, is inadequate in terms of law enforcement and prosecution. New proactive tactics, to include a substantial temporary concentration of manpower, are needed if the situation in Safi is to be brought under control”.

One of 13 Bee-eaters found dead at Dwejra (21.09.2012)One of 13 Bee-eaters found dead at Dwejra (21.09.2012) On the morning of 16 September, the second day of CABS operations, a team in Safi filmed a hunter shooting at a strictly protected Osprey. The video shows clearly the bird flinching under the impact of the shot. Several minutes later the same team filmed several hunters shooting at a Marsh Harrier and downing it. The conservationists called the police who searched the area but were unable to find either the bird or the perpetrators. The peak of the excessive poaching in Safi was yesterday, Sunday, when a single CABS team filmed the shooting down of two Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel, as well as the shooting at three more birds of prey at least by hunters. A police search here was also fruitless.

The poacher who shot at two Honey Buzzards near the Nadur tower on 20 September also escaped detection. Although a CABS team captured the incident on video the poacher managed to get away without being identified.

On the same day a person or persons unknown laid out a dead rat and rabbit, as well as a freshly shot Marsh Harrier, at an observation point used daily by CABS near Bingemma - obviously as a warning to the volunteers. The corpse of the Marsh Harrier was taken to a vet and x-rayed and the cause of death was clearly established to shot gun injuries, from no less that 14 lead pellets. The bird was handed over to the police.
On 21 September, in the ditch of Bingemma Fort a CABS team found the remains of 13 freshly-shot Bee-eaters. The corpses or remains of protected birds had been found at the same spot last year. The birds had clearly been used by hunters for target practice and later dumped in the deep and overgrown ditch. Te police have initiated proceedings against a person or persons unknown.

Seized birds of decoy at Ghajnsielem (Gozo) (22.09.2012)Seized birds of decoy at Ghajnsielem (Gozo) (22.09.2012) On Gozo on 20 September police rescued a Hoopoe found whilst searching for a Honey Buzzard that had been shot down in view of a CABS team deployed to Sarraflu. The bird’s injuries were treated by a CABS and a local vet and is expected to make a full recovery. On the following day, between San Lawrenz and Gharb on Gozo, a CABS team witnessed a hunter shooting at a Honey Buzzard that flew on uninjured. Although they were unable to film the incident they kept the man under observation and called the police. A search of his possessions showed that he was using illegal heavy gauge ammunition. He will be charged accordingly.

In the past week further offences against the hunting law witnessed by CABS teams included the shooting down of Hobbies and protected song birds, illegal trapping of Golden Plovers in Marsascala, finch trapping in the Ghajnsielem area of Gozo, the use of illegal electronic decoy devices, the use of weapons capable of firing more than 3 shots in succession as well as illegal hunting after the afternoon curfew.

A video showing the shooting of birds filmed by CABS can be seen on youtube at http://youtu.be/wrZI49pgxvM

Our daily blog with all details of our operations and incident records is online in English here.

CABS teams will remain on Malta and Gozo until 7 October in order to record incidents of illegal hunting and to assist the police in the detection and prosecution of poachers.

---- Contact for photo and video material: CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld, Tel.: 99554442 (Maltese mobile), Email: CABS@komitee.de