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CABS criticises removal of the afternoon hunting curfew

Press release 13.8.2013

Until today’s decision birds of prey migrating over Malta were protected by a 3.00 pm curfew. Now the poachers can kill again concealed  under the cloak of the legal hunters.Until today’s decision birds of prey migrating over Malta were protected by a 3.00 pm curfew. Now the poachers can kill again concealed under the cloak of the legal hunters.The decision by the Maltese Government to radically alter the afternoon hunting curfew that was imposed to protect migrant birds of prey during the peak migration period has been today sharply criticised by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) as a “death sentence for protected bird species”. In a press statement CABS commented that a proven instrument to protect endangered birds, accepted and welcomed by a wide spectrum of the Maltese population, has been unnecessarily sacrificed to the interests of hunters and poachers.

The government today announced that the year-long weekday hunting curfew from 3.00 pm daily, imposed during the last two weeks of September, is to be lifted and hunters are to be permitted to shoot until 7.00 pm in the period 15 September to 7 October 2013. CABS anticipates that many poachers will use this opportunity, under the cloak of legitimate hunting, to kill incoming raptors in the late afternoon and early evening. “Data collected by our volunteers last year show that after the end of the afternoon curfew on 30 September, afternoon poaching increased sharply” states CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld. In the time frame 15 to 30 September 2012 (16 days) a total of 12 shootings down or at protected species was recorded after 3.00 pm, i.e. during the curfew, some 27 % of the total illegal shooting incidents registered by the Bird Guards during this period. In the first week after the curfew was lifted (1 to 6 October 2012) 17 from 21 illegal shooting incidents (some 81 %) were registered in the late afternoon or early evening.

CABS argue further that peak of the migration of rare and endangered birds of prey takes place during the last two weeks of September; at this time of day however there is no appreciable passage of Quails or Turtle Doves. A recent study by the Maltese ornithologists Michael Sammut und Dr. Natalino Fenech, published earlier this year in the reputable professional journal British Birds, comes to similar conclusions. The authors, who analysed data from more than 19,600 individual observations covering the time frame 2009 to 2012, conclude that the afternoon raptor migration on Malta occurs on a considerably larger scale than has been reported previously. The paper states further that autumn passage occurs from mid-August to early November, with peak numbers between mid-September and early October – the time during which the curfew has been in force to date. It is regrettable that the Maltese Government has apparently not found it necessary to take this valuable professional information into account.

CABS also announced today that the organisation will be sending 40 volunteer Bird Guards to Malta in September, to guard the roosting sites of rare and endangered migrant bird species on Malta and Gozo and to monitor compliance with hunting and nature protection regulations. Operation Bon Voyage will run from 13 to 30 September.