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Massive shooting down of birds of prey and storks

Prime Minister Gonzi calls for investigation of the situation

Injured Marsh Harrier recovered by a volunteerInjured Marsh Harrier recovered by a volunteerValetta: Conservationists are shocked to the marrow. Despite a massive police deployment and the public presence of numerous bird conservationists from all over Europe and beyond, hundreds of protected bird of prey species were shot by Maltese hunters in the past few days. Members of the Germany-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), which is currently conducting bird migration monitoring operations on Malta with a team of 24 activists, speak of a massacre of unequalled proportions and will demand of the Maltese Government that they put immediate and complete stop to hunting this season. The Maltese news media today published videos shot by CABS members, in which poachers can be seen shooting Marsh Harriers, Black Storks and other endangered bird species out of the sky.

With a strong oncoming wind over the Mediterranean, more than 1,000 harriers, Honey Buzzards and falcons reached the Maltese islands on Friday afternoon to rest before continuing their journey to Africa. A fatal decision for many of the birds. “Whenever eagles, falcons, Honey Buzzards or Marsh Harriers took to the air they were targets for the poachers” commented retired British Army major David Conlin, who is coordination CABS operations on the islands. On many occasions the birds are brought down before the very eyes of the police. The sad climax so far to this orgy of killing is the shooting down of at least 3 Black Storks, which sought a night roost on Malta yesterday evening. A CABS team searching for a downed stork in woodland near Xemxija were forced at gunpoint to leave the area by a hunter. Three days earlier the bird guards witnessed a dozen poachers opening fire in a Marsh Harrier night roost near Rabat where some 30 birds had spent the night. “It was unbelievable how audacious and brutally the flock was almost completely wiped out” reports CABS activist Shai Agmon from Israel.

CABS teamCABS teamOn a number of other occasions hunters were observed shooting down Hobbys, Eleonora’s Falcons, Herons, Bee-Eaters, Sandpipers and Osprey. “All these observations are only the tip of the iceberg. We estimate that more than a hundred protected birds, some of them extremely rare species, have been killed yesterday and today” CABS president Heinz Schwarze summarizes.

Malta’s Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi today instructed the Police Commissioner to verify the CABS’ allegations and to initiate measures against the seemingly uncontrollable level of poaching activity.