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486 offences in 3 weeks - CABS publishes autumn camp results

Schwarze: Mizieb must be designated a bird protection reserve

CABS plans the outings for the following dayCABS plans the outings for the following dayAfter 3 weeks of operations the CABS bird guards have left Malta yesterday. From 11 September onwards up to 7 teams were deployed daily. Their task was to record offences against hunting and bird protection regulations. Although the activists were able only to simultaneously cover a maximum of 5 % of the area available for hunting on Malta, a total of 486 offences against bird protection and hunting regulations were recorded over the past 22 days.

This total includes 23 directly observed and in some cases filmed incidents of birds of prey being shot (2 Ospreys 7 Marsh Harriers, 7 Honey Buzzards, 1 Hobby, 2 Kestrels, 2 unidentified falcons and 3 herons), as well as 31 cases of protected species being shot at but either not being injured, or at least not mortally. In addition there were 24 observations of Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Hobbys, Kestrels and a Peregrine Falcon with probable gunshot injuries, evident by missing or damaged plumage or broken and dangling legs. Many of these latter birds will have died, or will die later, as they are unfit to migrate, forage properly for food or to roost. CABS further reports the recovery of 6 birds with evident shotgun injuries, some of them severe, including 2 live Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel, and 2 dead Common Kestrels and a Golden Oriole, found at different locations on the island. The birds were handed over to the police or delivered to the recovery centre of the International Animal Rescue (IAR) in Hamrum.

Four cases of illegal trapping of protected wader species were also recorded, as well as the find of an illegal cage trap containing a dozen freshly caught Turtle Doves. A total of 119 illegal electronic ‘bird callers’ were located and recorded during night patrols. These are used by poachers to lure migrating birds to trapping sites or shooting posts. Between 15 and 30 September CABS observers registered a total of 278 shots after the start of the afternoon curfew on hunting imposed by the government. In autumn 2008, during approximately the same period, only 83 shots were recorded.

Shot Honey BuzzardShot Honey Buzzard“These figures are, as always, only the tip of the iceberg. In summary it can be said that there has been no improvement in respect of illegal killing of birds on Malta. As soon as migration begins or resumes, protected species are shot at all over the island, and the government looks the other way”, states CABS president Heinz Schwarze. “The introduction of the limited hunting curfew after 3.00 pm has indeed led to a decrease of illegal killing in the afternoon. For many birds of prey this is however only a stay of execution for a night, as they come under fire at the latest when taking to the air the next morning” says Schwarze. This applies especially to rare birds such as Eagles and Black Storks, whose chances of leaving Malta alive are “extremely slim”.

In the opinion of CABS staff, additional police personnel are above all urgently required, as well as the declaration of wide ranging hunting free zones that include important night roost areas and safe flight corridors to the coast.

In view of the discovery of more than 200 dead protected birds in the FKNK Mizieb hunting reserve, CABS has renewed its demand to Prime Minister Gonzi to designate the Mizieb woodland a European bird protection reserve. “Mizieb is one of the most important bird of prey roosts on the Maltese islands and should have been designated a Special Protected Area (SPA) in accordance with the European Union Bird Protection Guidelines a long time ago. Instead, this woodland has become a black hole for protected species”, criticised Schwarze. Together with BirdLife Malta, CABS is currently putting together a comprehensive dossier on the so-called ‘bird cemetery’ at Mizieb. The report will be sent to the European Commission and the Environmental Committee of the European Parliament in the course of the next few weeks.