Hunting lobby has lost control over its members, BirdLife says

Environmental NGO in strong reaction to shooting of another three White Storks, suggests hunting season opening be delayed till November

BirdLife Malta has said the latest illegal shooting of White Storks showed that the hunting lobby has lost control over its members (Photo: Alice Tribe, BirdLife)
BirdLife Malta has said the latest illegal shooting of White Storks showed that the hunting lobby has lost control over its members (Photo: Alice Tribe, BirdLife)

BirdLife Malta has called for the government to take a zero tolerance stance towards the illegal killing of protected birds, saying that the local hunting lobby has lost control over its members.

In a strong reaction to the news that a further three White Storks were shot dead yesterday evening at Maghtab, BirdLife said it expected clear action from the government showing that it would not tolerate such “atrocities” anymore, and suggested that the opening of the hunting season be delayed till November.

READ MORE: Two more storks killed in Malta, Birdlife: half of flock missing due to illegal hunting

It said that it was now clear that FKNK’s (Federation for Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists) members were no longer under the lobby’s control, with four of the 18 White Storks which migrated over Malta having been seen being shot down on 10 August.

The NGO said that, in contrast to the public outcry about the shooting of the birds, FKNK had, in a statement, blamed the European Commission and the European Court of Justice for the illegalities, hinting that this is what could be expected when the lobby doesn’t get what it wants.

“They were clearly referring to the latest ECJ verdict on the finch trapping derogation, that practically meant the end of finch trapping in Malta,” BirdLife said, highlighting that three more White Storks were killed on Wednesday, after the FKNK issued its statement.

The flock has been “decimated” to six individuals from the original 18, the NGO highlighted, and, while seven were witnessed to have been shot, there was “very little doubt” that the remaining five probably met the same fate.

It noted that, since it is currently rabbit hunting season, hunters are able to openly carry shotguns in the countryside during the day.

“This situation proves a number of things; firstly that the hunting associations have lost control of their members and that more hunters are disregarding the law possibly encouraged by the latest public statement by FKNK,” BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said, “It also proves that our country’s fines and legislation are not deterring hunters from killing protected birds.”

Sultana said that the hunting lobby felt it “could take our country hostage”, stressing that it is now important for the Prime Minister to show “who leads and takes the right decisions [in Malta].”

The government should “seriously consider” not opening the hunting season until November, the NGO said, with the aim of sending a clear message that the country would not tolerate those who do not respect the law.

“We also expect the government to seriously think strategically to eradicate the illegal hunting phenomenon, that is on the increase again, in Malta. Revisiting the taxidermy laws, curfews of hunting during migration, investing in a proper wildlife crime unit and restarting the process of verifying and tagging declared stuffed birds’ collections,” Sultana said.

He added that the Prime Minister should “realise” that the vast majority of Maltese people want to see better bird protection and more environmentally-friendly policies.

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