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Operation Bon Voyage

The CABS autumn bird protection camp on Malta and Gozo

CABS Bird Guards on observation dutiesCABS Bird Guards on observation dutiesThe large scale CABS autumn bird protection camp on Malta and Gozo takes place once again from 13 – 30 September 2013. This autumn’s nickname is Bon Voyage - we hope that this will prove to be good omen for the birds. In any event the 40 camp participants, from nine European countries, will monitor the most important roost sites and migration corridors on the archipelago. The aim of the operation is to ensure that especially the protected and uncommon birds of prey, storks, herons and other species have a safe passage over the islands and depart - unscathed by the poachers’ efforts – on their further migration to their winter quarters in Africa. In addition trapping sites for song birds and waders species will be checked. As in spring this year we will also have teams deployed on Malta’s sister island Gozo.

The Malta and Gozo bird protection camps are financed from private donations and the generous support of the Foundation Pro Biodiversity (SPA) .

We will report here online at irregular intervals on the progress of Operation Bon Voyage so it is worth checking this site (as well as our Facebook and Twitter accounts now and again!

press release 17.09.2013

CABS set their sights on illegal bird trappers on Gozo

Police seize nets and protected rare birds

Today, Tuesday, CABS volunteers caught a bird trapper who was trapping dotterel (Birwina) with a huge net installation near Sarraflu, Gozo. According to the conservationists, early this morning at around 08.15 a Bird Guards team filmed a man in a blue T-shirt - probably in his late twenties - activating a clap net and setting out cages containing live decoy birds. “Shortly before the arrival of the police the man received a phone call and began to deactivate the nets. As he realised that the officers had almost reached the site, he panicked and fled with the birds in their cages” reports Craig Redmond of CABS, whose team had discovered the site. His flight will not rescue him from the long arm of the Maltese law however. “We have photos of the man setting his net and with the decoy birds in his hand. Identification should be no problem for the police” Craig Redmond comments.

When the police arrived on the site they discovered four 50 m long clap nets, a pond and plastic decoys and a single live Dotterel in a cage. After an exhaustive search of over an hour the Bird Guards found a further 6 cages and live birds that the man had discarded along the path of his hasty flight. The birds, three adult and four juvenile birds, which had been provided with neither feed nor water under a blazing sun, were seized by the police and, with assistance of the CABS team, transported to the police station in Victoria. Some of them are clearly in need of veterinary treatment. According to CABS the Dotterel is a plover species that enjoys strict protection under both the European bird protection guidelines as well as the African-Eurasian treaty on the protection of water birds (AEWA). The species breeds in the arctic tundra and passes through Malta on the way to its winter quarters in Africa, The birds are highly prized by Maltese trappers and collectors and it is believed that a living specimen can bring several hundred euros on the black market.

Another case of illegal bird trapping was discovered this morning close to Buskett, only a few hundred metres from Verdala Palace. This consisted of a clap net mounted on top of an aviary containing about a dozen Turtle Doves, several Blackbirds and a Golden Plover and is clearly designed for trapping birds ALE officers seized the trap and are interviewing the owner of the property where the trap was found. .

Press release 15.09.2013

Black Stork down on Gozo

Shortly after midday today a poacher shot down a strictly protected Black Stork in San Blas Valley, Gozo. According to the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) the bird was recovered, still alive, after a search by their Bird Guards but it died in the arms of its rescuers moments before it was handed over to the attending Gozo police patrol. It was identified clearly as a juvenile bird that had fledged only a few months earlier before building up the strength to leave on its first migration to its winter quarters in Africa.

The recovery of the bird, thus denying its display in an illegal collection by a trophy killer, was the result of a strenuous and extensive search carried out by the Bird Guards team deployed to Gozo in close cooperation with the Gozo local police and Gozo ALE, who were rapidly at the scene. The search was triggered off by the report of an eyewitness ,who had directly witnessed the shooting down and reported it to the BirdLife office on Malta. BirdLife alerted the CABS team on Gozo who then organised the search together with the police. “We are extremely grateful to the vigilant witnesses and all police officers involved in the incident for their assistance and prompt reaction” stated David Conlin, CABS team leader on Gozo.” Although the bird could sadly not be rescued alive, the incident demonstrates that a functioning local alert chain, involving all agencies involved, is an important instrument in the fight against poaching” Conlin concludes.

CABS further commented that the shooting down of the stork was the tragic climax of a series of illegal killings of protected bird species this Sunday. Earlier in the day CABS teams on the Gebel Cantar plateau on Malta observed hunters shooting down two Honey Buzzards en route from their night roost in Buskett Gardens to the coast. ALE officers alerted by CABS searched the area for the birds and their killers but without success. Two more birds were shot at but flew on unscathed. Near Safi a CABS team filmed three attempts to shoot down a Marsh Harrier. The injured bird flew on - visibly weakened. The same morning another CABS team below Mgarr (Malta) discovered a bird trapper who, despite the ban on trapping, had activated his clap nets. ALE officers, alerted by the CABS team, arrived with 10 minutes, interviewed the man, and initiated proceedings against him.

“The fact that as many as six severe breaches of hunting regulations occurred within such a short space of time shows that Malta is a long way from solving the poaching problem” comments CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld. “We now expect the authorities, as in the case of the shooting of three Flamingos last week, to do their utmost to apprehend the offenders and bring them to court”. CABS will remain on Malta and Gozo with 10 teams until the end of the month, and will continue to monitor roosts and migration corridors of protected migrant bird species, and bring poachers to justice, in cooperation with the police. Information on illegal trapping or poaching can be passed to CABS on the telephone number 99554442 (Malta) or 99646321 (Gozo).