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Bird conservationists criticise opening of the spring hunting season

CABS is sending 8 Bird Guards to monitor and report on the situation

Bird Guard patrolling on MaltaBird Guard patrolling on MaltaThe decision by the Maltese Government to once again permit spring hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail has been criticised by conservationists throughout Europe. “This is bad news for the populations of two species that are already endangered in large parts of the EU”, states Heinz Schwarze, President of the German-based Committee against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

The organisation said that a so-called derogation from the Bird´s Directive, as applied in this case by the Maltese government, is legally very questionable, as “hunting of birds on pre-nuptial migration can never be considered sustainable”.

The hunting of migrant birds at a point in time when the species-specific winter losses are already evident causes a far higher damage to populations than hunting in autumn" CABS president Heinz Schwarze explains. CABS stresses that the populations of both species have greatly declined in Germany and other EU member states.

That aside, the conservationists fear, that the opening of the hunting season for Turtle Dove and Quail is for some hunters an open invitation to illegally shoot birds of prey. Raptor migration is at its peak towards the end of April, with thousands of Honey Buzzards, Harriers and Hobbies, roosting on the Maltese islands.

CABs volunteer with illegal live decoysCABs volunteer with illegal live decoysCABS have great misgivings about the ability of the undermanned environmental police unit A.L.E. to conduct effective controls over the restrictions imposed by the government. “Over the past few decades it has proved to be beyond the capability of the police to prevent poaching during the legal hunting season – why should this year be different?", asks Schwarze.

CABS will be sending a team of eight Bird Guards to Malta this Friday, with the task of compiling data on the extent of illegal hunting for one week before and during the debatable spring hunting season. Their operations will be conducted from 16th to 30th April and will include the recording of the killing of protected species as well as the mapping of illegal bird callers.

In addition, police reaction times to reports of illegal hunting activity will be documented in detail and included in a final report to the European Commission. Heinz Schwarze concludes “Europe’s eyes are on Malta this spring. We expect the responsible authorities to employ all legal means at their disposal to fully investigate and prosecute criminal poaching activity”.