[WATCH] BirdLife urge Muscat to act as illegally-shot bird falls in school grounds

Three protected birds shot in past 24 hours bringing total number of illegally shot birds this season to 26 • BirdLife in strong appeal to the Prime Minister to act

12 of the shot birds recovered by BirdLife Malta
12 of the shot birds recovered by BirdLife Malta

The Prime Minister can no longer ignore the fact that more protected birds are being shot during the ongoing autumn hunting season, BirdLife Malta said this afternoon as the number of shot birds has reached 26.

BirdLife Malta held a press conference at St Edward’s College, where another protected bird fell on the college grounds last night.

Students at the college last night recovered an illegally shot Honey Buzzard (Kuċċarda) which had fallen on college grounds. The bird of prey, which was found to have been injured, was later collected by the Animal Welfare Department and taken for care.

It was one of three birds which have been illegally shot in the past 24 hours, the other two being a flamingo and a Eurasian Hobby (Seqer tal-Ħannieqa).

“The Prime Minister must take a decision: either close down the hunting season or else find a way for the police to safeguard protected birds,” BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said.

The students who found the bird said that they had been walking on the school grounds, during a live-in, when they heard a sound and spotted the injured bird. They took it to the school and did their best to care for it until officials from the Animal Welfare Department arrived.

A teacher at the college said that the students who found the birds had been agitated and concerned for the animal. The students recalled what had happened in 2015, when another bird had fallen on the school grounds and later died. 

Sultana remarked that when the 2015 incident took place, the Prime Minister had closed the hunting season. “While the Prime Minister had been very progressive about issues such as banning animal circus, promoting recycling and bringing the importance of the sea and ocean on the agenda, he has not been taking firm decisions regarding the illegal hunting situation,” Sultana said.

BirdLife president Daryl Grima explained how they had met with the police commissioner recently, and had told him that a “massacre” was happening.

The commissioner agreed with the formation of a Wildlife Crime Unit. BirdLife was in full support of this, Grima said. He added that this was “the tip of the iceberg - we do not know what more illegal hunting is taking place in Gozo or over the open sea.”

Grima asked what message the Prime Minister wanted to give regarding the illegal shooting of birds and what had happened St Edward’s. “Can the Prime Minister tell us how to explain to the students what has happened here? What should we tell our children regarding the conservation of the environment and of nature, and the observance of the law?”

Sultana went on to say that the police could not do more than they were already doing. The Prime Minister had to decide whether to allocate more resources to enforce the hunting laws and establish the proposed unit on wildlife crime, and whether to close the hunting season.

He said that nobody had as of yet been taken to court over the 26 illegally shot birds. He also made reference to the recent statement by the Chief Justice regarding the problem in Malta with enforcing the rule of law, and said that the police needed the appropriate tools to enforce hunting laws.

More in Environment