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Updated | Swimmer says hunters shot down at him to kill Honey Buzzard

Hunters nearly killed Steve Haston and his colleague when they shot three honey buzzards while the two were snorkelling • BirdLife Malta urges government to take action

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
17 September 2016, 2:10pm
Last updated on 17 September 2016, 3:38pm
Steve Haston with the dead bird he collected at sea. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Steve Haston with the dead bird he collected at sea. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
An avid sportsman has blogged on the way hunters approached a cliff to shoot down a Honey Buzzard that was flying low by the sea, where he was swimming… and nearly killing him in the process.

Steve Haston, an Anglo-Maltese sportsman, said on his blog that hunters nearly killed him and his colleague when they shot three honey buzzards [kuċċarda] while snorkelling.

Honey buzzards are protected birds of prey under Maltese law. 

Haston starts his day making his way down the cliff. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Haston starts his day making his way down the cliff. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
“A very large band of honey buzzards flew next to us and we were nearly shot. Two hunters were firing at the buzzards without care for us. Buzzards are protected, but so theoretically are swimmers!” Haston wrote.

Haston said that the bullets kept flying despite him shouting at the hunters.

Haston holds the injured bird. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Haston holds the injured bird. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
“Three Buzzards were shot illegally, the hunters kept shooting even though I was shouting… I have a very loud voice easily capable of traveling 55 metres. I swum hard trying to stay safe from shotgun blasts, but then went for a bird I saw flapping around. I hoped that the jerk above would stop shooting.”

After swimming to safety, he recouped the body of one of the birds hit by the bullets, which however later died.

Haston said he saw the poacher riding a dirt bike as he fled the scene, and said that he was part of a large group of “maybe 10 hunters shooting birds over the sea on this section of the cliff.”

Haston securing the injured bird. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Haston securing the injured bird. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Haston reported the incident to the police.

“I chased the young man, but he got away on a dirt bike. In retrospect I am glad I didn’t catch him. There were maybe 10 hunters shooting birds over the sea on this section of cliff. The two near us who shot without due consideration for us were targeting Honey Buzzards.

Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
“The others, even if shooting legal birds, were shooting for fun, and sadism, as you can’t collect birds from the bottom of 50-60 metre cliffs. The best day I have had for years was exploded by Remington multiple illegal shotguns.”

Unfortunately, the Honey Buzzard did not make it. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
Unfortunately, the Honey Buzzard did not make it. Photo: http://steviehaston.blogspot.com.mt
BirdLife Malta reiterates call to suspend hunting season

BirdLife Malta said that the Gozo Police had confirmed the killing of three Honey Buzzards.

“BirdLife Malta remains adamant that this rampant illegal killing will keep going on unless the Government takes immediate action today. Once again we are calling on the Prime Minister to suspend the hunting season till October 15. This is the only way the limited enforcement efforts can give some results,” BirdLife Malta said.

“It would be surprising to know that the Government does not think this is alarming and we expect the Government to take the bold decision rather than pass the buck to the Ornis Committee.”

“The law clearly states that the Government can decide to suspend the hunting season in critical conditions. This is far beyond critical following the 19th shot protected bird. We have already seen seven Honey Buzzards and 2 Black Storks amongst these protected birds which have been shot and yet the Government decides to remain silent. This is unacceptable and our demands remain consistent – for the Government to suspend the season with immediate effect. We hope the Government has the courage to do what is right.”

MaltaToday has, for the past three days, been trying to get in touch with the chairman of the Ornis Committee, Mark Anthony Falzon, to see whether he planned on convening a meeting of the committee to discuss the rampant abuse in Gozo. No reply was forthcoming.

MaltaToday has also sent questions to the parliamentary secretariat for animal rights. The questions have remained unanswered.

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.