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Press release - Tuesday 23 April 2013

Hunters target protected species and violate private property on Gozo

During the past 48 hours the CABS Bird Guards, together with the police, have once again closed down illegal trapping sites and recorded the shooting down of protected species as well as numerous contraventions of the afternoon hunting curfew.

On Sunday evening, at about 7.00 p.m. north of Selmun Palace, a team of volunteers managed to film a hunter picking up a freshly shot Little Egret and subsequently patrolling through the area carrying a shotgun. “Our video shows close ups of the weapon, Little Egret and the face of the poacher. It should be easy for the police to identify him” comments CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld.

Yesterday morning at 6.00 a.m., in the Fiddien Valley, a Quail trapper was filmed setting his some 20 m long net immediately adjacent to the main road: On the appearance of the CABS team he calmly packed his equipment together and disappeared before the arrival of the police. The video material shot by the CABS team, which clearly shows the trapper and his equipment, and has been handed over to the ALE for analysis and investigation. Another Bird Guards team discovered a shot Red-footed Falcon grounded in a field above Salina. With the permission of the landowner the bird, a member of a highly endangered species in Europe, was recovered and taken to a veterinary surgeon for treatment. It is being cared for until it is again fit for release into the wild.

A Common Kestrel shot before the eyes of a CABS team near Qala, Gozo, in the early morning hours was less lucky. The team who were distracted by the presence of aggressive hunters attempting to get them to leave only managed to see the bird being shot and its fall to the ground. The identity of the shooter or the whereabouts of the dead bird remain unknown.

On Monday afternoon, a CABS team patrolling a piece of woodland east of Mellieha, discovered a mist net and a cage trap with more than 20 freshly caught Turtle Doves. The police seized the net and have begun proceedings against unknown persons.

Today, Tuesday, CABS volunteers filmed a hunter near Imtahleb shooting at a Montagu’s Harrier that finally fell to earth. ALE officers managed to secure the rare bird, which was still alive. This bird is also receiving veterinary treatment at present and will hopefully be released at the end of the hunting season. Again this morning, close to Salina, an attempt to recover a Little Egret with gunshot wounds was unsuccessful. The bird, which is still present near the Bird Park, remains under observation from a CABS team.

“In the past 48 hours our volunteers have registered nine severe contraventions of the law by hunters. The fact that we can only monitor a small part of the islands at any one time means that many more environmental crimes are almost certainly being perpetrated” summarises Hirschfeld. According to CABS the number of cases of illegal trapping and shooting of protected species is twice as high as in the same period last year. With this statement the organisation openly challenges statements by the Animal Rights Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Gates, who yesterday claimed that the “assertion of widespread illegalities could not be corroborated so far“.

On Gozo this morning, operations by conservationists on the Ta’ Cenc plateau set the cat among the pigeons. Four teams consisting of volunteers from CABS and the German Foundation Pro Biodiversity, with the authorisation of the landowner and owner of the five star Ta’ Cenc Hotel & Spa, evicted seven hunters from the private property that, despite signs clearly banning hunting and trapping, were illegally hunting there. The operation was sparked off by countless complaints from tourists, who were waked daily by volleys of gunfire and falling lead shot on their daily walks in the otherwise pristine countryside of the plateau. “This form of cooperation between a private landowner and an NGO is exemplary and extremely welcome” states CABS board member David Conlin. “To say the hunters were surprised is an understatement; but they will have to get used to the fact that arbitrary appropriation of private or public or private land to the detriment of the rest of the public is a thing of the past” Conlin emphasised. The action was supported throughout by the Gozo police, whose intervention was happily not required on this occasion.