[WATCH] Stunning find inside Knights’ fort used to illegally trap protected birds

Drones uncover illegal trapping sites inside government-owned Fort Ricasoli where dozens of protects birds were caged

The illegally trapped protected birds found at Fort Ricasoli (Photo by BirdLife Malta)
The illegally trapped protected birds found at Fort Ricasoli (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

An illegal trapping site has been located in Kalkara, where drone footage uncovered nets and protected birds kept in cages inside the historic Knights’ era fort of Ricasoli.

The unregistered trapping site, found with unattended nets on the ground, is situated within Fort Ricasoli, which is owned by the Government of Malta, and most of it is currently being leased to the Malta Film Commission.

ALE police officers removed the nets and confiscated 23 protected birds that were being kept in captivity. Despite asking for the intervention of Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) experts, WBRU lacked adequate capacity to assist, with police in turn resorting to calling on Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) experts to help in identifying the confiscated birds.

From Short-toed Larks to Robins, a Dunnock, a Tree Pipit and several Chaffinches and Linnets, the birds were inspected by a veterinarian, and later ringed and released by BirdLife Malta at Għadira Nature Reserve. The welfare conditions of most of the birds were poor. The illegally fitted rings and harnesses were all removed by BirdLife Malta, before the birds were fitted with rings from the BirdLife Malta ringing scheme prior to their subsequent release.

The fact that the site was prepared with nets on the ground, and birds kept on site, some of which had been fitted with swivels to be used as live decoys, clearly shows that the trapper was intending to illegally catch birds in the coming weeks.

“Spring is just around the corner and migration for many bird species will already be underway. With Malta seeing an influx of spring migrants in the coming weeks, some of our migrant birds are already being placed in danger.

“We congratulate both ALE and ERA for their timely intervention in this case which not only has saved the lives of these wild birds, but also prevented them from being used as live decoys for more illegal trapping at this location,” BirdLife spokesperson Nathaniel Attard said.

Investigations by police are still ongoing.