Stuffed protected bird collections need to be verified to stamp out poaching

BirdLife Malta says that to solve the problem of illegal hunting the government must carry out a verification process of stuffed protected bird collections that benefitted from past amnesties

Confiscated illegally stuffed birds
Confiscated illegally stuffed birds

Stuffed protected bird collections need to be verified and tagged to cut down hunting abuses, BirdLife Malta said.

The bird conservation group said that people with stuffed bird collections had benefitted from two amnesties in 1997 and 2003, which saw hunters declare over 520,000 stuffed protected birds.

An initial verification process by environment authority officers, then still operating under the planning authority, had tried to reconcile actual collections with declared lists by tagging the specimens. However, it had become evident that most hunters had declared more birds than what they actually had in a bid to be able to continue hunting protected birds and pass them off as part of the collections that were given an amnesty.

BirdLife Malta is now urging the government to restart the verification process of stuffed bird collections.

BirdLife believes that the end of the verification process several years ago has led to the increase in illegal hunting incidents over the past four years.

Between 2014 and 2017 there were 190 protected birds that were verified by the government veterinarian as being illegally shot, compared to the 523 illegally shot protected birds so far since 2018.

“These figures are only the tip of the iceberg, since nearly all shot protected birds are retrieved by the hunters themselves, but they are indicative of the drastic upward trend.

The verification process is also very important as it regulates the hunting of protected birds, including those under the CITES Convention, by Maltese hunters on hunting trips abroad. These are normally smuggled in illegally in time to be placed in unverified collections,” BirdLife said.

The organisation said the abrupt end to the verification process also fuelled the illegal trade of wildlife in Malta both from abroad and domestically.

Poachers are making big money from selling shot protected birds to those who have their collections still unverified, and hence in time to include them, BirdLife said.

Such trading is not only illegal under the EU Birds Directive, but also under the EU Wildlife Trade regulations.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said: “Malta has a responsibility to solve the illegal hunting of protected birds. While enforcement remains crucial, it is also crucial that the verification process by a team of experts which the government already has available, is reinstated. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet need to understand that the only ones benefitting from this delay are those that break the law.”