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Press release 21.04.2013

Massive Blow against illegal Trapping

Police confiscate illegal nets and live decoys / More than 330 offences against the Sunday hunting curfew / Six dead Marsh Harriers and a freshly shot cuckoo found near Mtarfa

Gozo police dismantle an illegal clap net found by CABS near the village of XaghraGozo police dismantle an illegal clap net found by CABS near the village of XaghraValletta/Victoria. In the course of the first three days of Operation ´Skyfall´, conducted by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), more than 330 contraventions of the hunting curfew imposed by the authorities on this sunday have been recorded and, in cooperation with the Malta and Gozo police, five active illegal trapping sites have been closed down. In addition, acting on information provided by CABS teams, five live protected birds, including a strictly protected Nightjar and several waders, six shot Marsh Harriers, a dead Cuckoo as well as two illegally operated electronic Quail decoy devices were seized by the police.

As early as Saturday morning CABS volunteers located two active clap nets between Xaghra and Ramla (Gozo). These were immediately reported to the local police for confiscation. At about the same time a CABS team in Imtahleb found a 10 metre long vertically strung trapping net (mist net) in which a bird was frantically struggling to set itself free. The police were also called to this case but took 45 minutes to arrive at the scene. The offenders used this delay to remove the mist net so that confiscation was not possible. Another trapper with an active mist net in the valley (Wied ir-Rum) below Ta´ Baldu was not so fortunate. The police called by CABS on Saturday afternoon arrived in less than 20 minutes, seized the net, and initiated proceedings against person or persons unknown.

A sad find - CABS volunteers found six dead Marsh Harriers and a Cuckoo in a harvested fieldA sad find - CABS volunteers found six dead Marsh Harriers and a Cuckoo in a harvested fieldA CABS team patrolling on foot in the valley between Mtarfa and the Dwejra Lines on Saturday afternoon made a particularly shocking find. The corpses of six Marsh Harriers, from the state of decomposition apparently dead for a few weeks, and a freshly shot Cuckoo were found lying in a newly mown field. “We suspect that the birds were shot in March and simply left lying in the field”, states CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld. This new example of a massacre of birds of prey on Malta only came to light when the clover was harvested”. All corpses were recovered and taken away by the ALE. The police have begun proceedings against person or persons unknown.

In the night from Saturday to Sunday two Bird Guard patrols were deployed in the Bingemma and Bahrija areas to collect evidence of the illegal operation of electronic decoy devices for Quail. They were extremely successful.
A  mist net found while searching for an electronic decoy deviceA mist net found while searching for an electronic decoy deviceBetween 2.00 and 4.00 a.m. a total of 16 of these banned devices were located. The local police from Mosta, alerted by the CABS patrols, despatched a mobile squad to the scene. The officers began to dismantle the devices at about 3.30 a.m. Close to one of the devices the volunteers discovered a some 20 metres long mist net and an over 40 metre long ground net for the illegal trapping of Quail. The net was surrounded by 6 cages with live Quail decoys. A few metres distant from the net, in a small garden, an aviary was discovered with several strictly protected bird species and some 20 unringed Turtle Doves, Song Thrushes and other huntable species. ALE officers and MEPA officials dismantled the nets and freed a Robin, a Dunlin, two Little Stints and a Nightjar - an acutely endangered species throughout Europe from their imprisonment. The birds will be released today (Sunday 21 April) in the Il-Ghadira nature reserve. Also planned is the release of five dogs that were found chained up and severely under-nourished in the garden, which was knee-deep in garbage. The police have therefore informed the Animal Welfare Department who will take care of the animals this afternoon.

In addition to protected song birds and waders, CABS volunteers found this Nightjar in a trapper’s aviaryIn addition to protected song birds and waders, CABS volunteers found this Nightjar in a trapper’s aviaryAccording to further information from CABS deployed this morning in Safi, Delimara, Imtahleb and on Gozo reported - despite the total hunting curfew on Sundays - a total of more than 330 shots fired. Heading the league table on this Bloody Sunday was the area around Safi, where almost 200 shots were registered in the period 6.00 to 9.00 a.m. An ALE patrol alerted by CABS witnessed the wild orgy of shooting and two officers searched the area on foot. The result of the search is not known at this time. Near Imtahleb, where 88 shots were registered this morning, a CABS team filmed a hunter stashing his weapon in his hide. On the arrival of the police the man took to his heels and, despite an energetic chase, could not be caught. An analysis of the video material will hopefully identify the offender.

20 volunteer CABS Bird Guards are currently active on Malta and Gozo in order to record offences against Maltese hunting law and the European bird protection guidelines. They will remain deployed on operations until 30 April. The ‘wardens‘ supposedly provided by the hunting associations to monitor their members have not been seen in the field. If they are indeed deployed, and were to wear a distinctive form of dress or other marking (the CABS observers are highly visible and unmistakeable in their distinctive Bird Guard T-shirts), this might indeed have a deterrent effect on law-breakers in their ranks.


More photos from 20th and 21st April 2013:

ALE officers dismantle a ground net for Common QuailALE officers dismantle a ground net for Common Quail


Waders in the filthy aviary: Ruff (on stone), Golden Plover (centre) Curlew Sandpiper (foreground) and between them Quail and a Song ThrushWaders in the filthy aviary: Ruff (on stone), Golden Plover (centre) Curlew Sandpiper (foreground) and between them Quail and a Song Thrush


In addition to six Marsh Harriers, a Cuckoo was also found dead in a fieldIn addition to six Marsh Harriers, a Cuckoo was also found dead in a field