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Bird Cemetery found in Mizieb

20 September 2009 - 73 dead protected birds were found today concealed under stones and rubbish in the Mizieb woodland by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp volunteers. The search in the area continues and based on present experience it is likely that the numbers will increase before the day is out.

Skeletons of Honey Buzzard: under every stone a dead bird!Skeletons of Honey Buzzard: under every stone a dead bird!BirdLife Malta also received two shot injured Grey Herons and a Honey Buzzard over the last couple of days. CABS teams found a freshly shot Common Kestrel in Bahrija this morning.

Both organisations, that are running two separate bird protection and migration observation camps in Malta, stated that their volunteers observed protected birds being shot at while they were leaving their roost sites in the Mizieb area early this morning.

Raptor Camp and CABS teams moved into the Mizieb hunting grounds shortly after 9am as hunting intensity decreased. Volunteers began searching the area and found several freshly killed protected birds including Marsh Harriers, a Honey-buzzard, a Hoopoe, a Night Heron, a Hobby and a Nightingale, as well as remains of other protected species that were clearly killed and stashed in hiding places dotted around Mizieb, over the past few weeks and months.

The volunteers called the ALE while continuing to search the area for more evidence. The ALE arrived at around 12:30 and started collecting the bodies and the remains of the dead protected birds.

Today alone, some twenty birdwatchers from CABS and BirdLife Malta found 73 protected birds including 12 Night Herons, one unidentified Heron, 19 Marsh Harriers, 10 Falcons, 9 Honey Buzzards and 19 skeletons of raptors (as yet unidentified), a Nightingale, a Golden Oriole and a Hoopoe in Mizieb. Both organisations suspect that many other bird corpses and remains may be concealed in this large area.

Freshly shot Marsh Harrier found under a stoneFreshly shot Marsh Harrier found under a stone“What we have been witnessing over the last two days, together with today’s shocking finding in Mizieb, is a sad reflection of the true scale of illegal hunting in Malta. What we have uncovered is only the tip of the iceberg, as the scope and range of our teams is limited and we can therefore only cover a small geographical area of the Maltese islands.” said Axel Hirschfeld, CABS press officer.

Since raptor migration started to pick up this weekend, large numbers of birds of prey and herons have been on passage over the Maltese islands, while many others roosted to rest before continuing their journey to Africa.

CABS and BirdLife birdwatchers have also observed the shooting at and killing, of protected birds over the last few days as roosting birds attempted to leave for their long journey to their winter quarters.

The illegalities observed by CABS and BirdLife Raptor Camp teams over the last two days in several locations include the shooting at or killing of Ospreys, Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, Bee-Eaters and Grey Herons. Both organisations stated that they would hold a press conference in the coming days where they will release the figures of illegalities they observed and footage they recorded since the beginning of both camps.

CABS volunteers search under the stones for further evidence of the raptors' massacre in MiziebCABS volunteers search under the stones for further evidence of the raptors' massacre in MiziebWe demand from the government that they stop claiming that illegal hunting is under some form of control and instead start treating this international conservation problem as a political priority. Sitting on the fence and pretending that this is a conflict between two sides will only exacerbate the problem.” said Joseph Mangion, BirdLife Malta President.

BirdLife Malta restated their position that they are not against hunting in autumn as long as it is practised within the parameters of the law. On the other hand, CABS who have been campaigning for a moratorium of hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail because of their unfavourable conservation status in the EU, stated that their priority in Malta is however combating the ongoing illegal killing of protected species and not a ban on hunting of these species in autumn.

BirdLife Malta and CABS called on the government to launch an inquiry into today’s appalling and large scale discovery of dead protected birds in Mizieb.

A short footage of the cemetery of Mizieb can be seen on our Malta YouTube page