Updated | BirdLife Malta rejects reports of its ‘illegal practices’

BirdLife Malta has rejected allegations by hunters that it is using illegal practices in its endeavours to conserve biodiversity

FKNK have claimed that BirdLife Malta is using electronic devices to intercept private mobile phone conversations
FKNK have claimed that BirdLife Malta is using electronic devices to intercept private mobile phone conversations

BirdLife Malta has rejected that it is in some way using illegal practices.

The allegations were made by the Federation for Hunting and Conservation – Malta, also known as FKNK, who accused the NGO of “using some form of electronic device to eavesdrop on private mobile phone conversations taking place by whoever happened to be within the devise's receiving range,” while also implicating German-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

FKNK said that BirdLife Malta are “possibly desperately resorting to illegal and corrupt methods to abolish the traditional socio-cultural practice of live-finch capturing from the Maltese islands,” claiming that it has been using electronic devices to eavesdrop on private mobile phone conversations. “Possibly, a false GSM base station known as "IMSI catcher" or similar was used to intercept the trappers' mobile traffic in the immediate area,” the hunting federation said.

It added that the reason behind these alleged actions is to influence the European Court of Justice, which at present is presiding the relative case against Malta.

In its statement, BirdLife Malta said that remains focused to work in the conservation of biodiversity, including monitoring trapping and hunting activities.

“BirdLife Malta will not get into any confrontational issues and continues to seek common ground with all stakeholders to work together to eradicate illegal hunting and trapping in Malta and Gozo,” it said.

FKNK claimed that the trappers have lodged an official police report over a supposed encounter with BirdLife Malta members which led them to believe such “illegal and corrupt methods” were being used.

The hunting federation said that it expects that this incident is investigated and any necessary legal action taken, “with the same intensity and seriousness as are normally investigated any alleged illegality of hunting and trapping incidents.”

CABS denies involvement

In a separate statement, CABS also denied the allegations that it was involved in the illegal activities mentioned by FKNK.

“CABS has never used any electronic devices to eavesdrop on private mobile phone conversations. Apart from the fact that this would be illegal, it would also be useless as nobody of our activists or staff members speaks or understands Maltese,” it said.

CABS made reference to an incident described FKNK, where BirdLife Malta and CABS activist Fiona Burrows, who hails from Nottingham, was allegedly “spying on trappers through binoculars, cameras and similar equipment,” together with three men from the two organisations. According to FKNK, Burrows and the three men ran off when approached by a trapper, using a car leased from GOLDCAR Malta, with the registration number AQZ836. FKNK added that the trapper chased the four, stating that the trapper could listen-in on the conversation between the four through his mobile phone, due to an antenna or repeater that had reportedly been installed recently around the area.

However, CABS stated that Burrows has not been in Malta since last week, and that the organisation does not make used of the rental company mentioned by FKNK. It added also that no German nationals have worked or volunteered for CABS on Malta since September.

"We do not know what has driven the FKNK executives to go public with such a weird, xenophobic and insupportable statement,” CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said, referring to a comment by the hunting federation that the alleged use of the equipment was “even more scandalous since it is used by foreign persons operating in Malta.”

“What we can confirm is that since the beginning of the trapping season our teams have observed and reported numerous cases of illegal trapping, resulting in the dismantling of 18 illegal trapping sites and the seizure of 25 live songbirds by the police." 

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