Update 3 | ‘Ornis committee’s prerogative to propose suspension of hunting season’ – Galdes

The killing of two Black Storks has prompted calls for season suspension whilst hunters condemn act • Parliamentary secretariat ditches calls and passes the buck to Ornis Committee

The bird is one of two Black Storks shot at in Gozo
The bird is one of two Black Storks shot at in Gozo

It is “the prerogative” of the Ornis Committee to recommend the suspension of the autumn hunting season or propose changes to the seasons’ parameters, according to the parliamentary secretary for animal rights.

Two Black Storks were shot in Gozo and killed on Monday, prompting BirdLife Malta to call on the government to suspend the hunting season until October 12, in order to allow a safer passage during the migration of protected birds.

Photos released by BirdLife show a blood-stained Black Stork and a dead Golden Oriole.

In a statement released by the secretariat, junior minister Roderick Galdes said the government “always evaluates and acts on the recommendations of the Ornis Committee”. He added that this was in line with regulations.

The government had taken a draconian decision in 2014 to close the autumn hunting season until October 10 after multiple killings of protected birds of prey. The decision was taken on instructions of the Office of the Prime Minister. Seven months later Malta held a referendum which narrowly rejected proposals to ban spring hunting.

In the statement, Galdes confirmed that the police was investigating the killing of the protected birds. “Anyone found guilty faces among the harshest court sentences in Europe.”

According to BirdLife Malta, one Black Stork was killed and picked up by a hunter in Gozo, whose details have been passed on to the police.

“The other Black Stork, although suffering from gunshot injuries to the belly and had lead pellets in the left wing, had continued to migrate and reached Malta where it joined three White Storks seen at the airport area, but succumbed to its injuries and was handed to the police. Another White Stork was earlier observed in Gozo, apparently also with an injury,” BirdLife Malta said.

It added that multiple illegal killings have been reported over the past few days, including Night Herons, Bee-eaters, a Golden Oriole and reportedly a Honey Buzzard.

“This latest case of the Black Storks is a clear sign that with all the good intentions from Government and the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit (ALE), illegal hunting in Malta is yet uncontrolled,” BirdLife Malta said.

“While one cannot argue that in general terms the situation of illegal hunting in Malta has improved, the latter cases in the past days indicate this year could be one of the worst in recent years.”

Hunters condemn shooting, but consider suspension ‘extreme’

Both Kaccaturi San Ubertu and hunting federation FKNK condemned the killing but dubbed calls for season suspension “extreme and deplorable”.

“In a democratic society, the actions of a few undesirables should never lead to castigating a law-abiding majority. Our laws and appropriate fines and imprisonment are there to castigate the few remaining people that believe they are above the law,” the KSU said.

“KSU augurs that those who persist in breaking the law are brought to justice. We expect witnesses to testify. Even if no hard evidence is found but there were witnesses, the person who broke the law must be punished.”

On its part, the FKNK praised the “government’s strong political will” and that of the authorities which, together with the 70 hunting marshals deployed by FKNK to assist in surveillance, is providing Malta “with some of the best-disciplined and law-abiding hunters and the least number of infringements, in the EU.

“Unfortunately, there remain a handful of criminals whose only aim is that of harming legal hunting practices, even though the killing of two protected birds is totally unrelated to hunting,” the FKNK said. 

“The FKNK unreservedly condemns and deplores these illegal activities.”

It reiterated that suspending the season for all as a collective punishment “has no place in today’s era”. 

“It is undemocratic, counter-productive and unlawful,” it added.

“All genuine stakeholder conservationists have to continue with the efforts exercised to date to ensure that these persons are brought to justice and the Maltese hunters' stigma eliminated for good.”

Timeline of illegalities since start of season

  • September 6, Valletta: Yellow-legged Gull (Gawwija Prima) Larus cachinnans recieved with three pellets in its right wing, leg and neck and had to be euthanised
  • September 10, Wied ir-Rum, limits of Dingli: at least three Night Herons (Kwakka)Nycticorax nycticorax reported seen falling to the ground after a flock of herons came under fire
  • September 10, Tal-Virtù, Rabat: Two Bee-eaters (Qerd in-Naħal) Merops apiasterreported having been shot dead over the area
  • September 10, Manikata: Golden Oriole (Tajra Safra) Oriolus oriolus shot and euthanised due to injuries sustained
  • September 12, Gozo and Malta: Two Black Storks (Ċikonja Sewda) Ciconia nigra shot dead
  • September 13, Ħal Far: reports of a Honey Buzzard (Kuċċarda) Pernis apivorus shot down being investigated

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