Fake breeders stealing trapped birds to sell them as captive-bred specimens

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter says last week six severe infringements were reported to the Environmental Protection Unit 

Poacher with caged finches Birzebuggia March 2021 (Photo: CABS)
Poacher with caged finches Birzebuggia March 2021 (Photo: CABS)

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has urged the government to take action against fake bird-breeders, amid a police crackdown on bird trapping that took place during the closed season this spring. 

CABS said that since last weekend, six severe infringements were reported to the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU), the police body responsible for enforcing Malta's bird protection laws. “In all cases, the EPU responded very quickly and met with our teams to see the video evidence and catch the poachers,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said.

The committee said despite many sites being located in challenging terrain, the police managed to catch three offenders red-handed and dismantle seven sets of clap-nets used for the trapping of Chaffinches, Siskins, Serins and other songbirds.

“One poacher managed to run away before the police reached his trapping hide. However, we are optimistic that he can be identified from the video evidence produced by our teams,” Burrows said.

CABS said that a total of 20 live decoy birds were also seized. “While the birds have regained their freedom, the trappers will have to justify themselves before the court. If found guilty, the men may be subjected to high fines and other inconveniences such as the revocation of their hunting and trapping licences,” CABS said. 

Poaching with clap-nets is widespread, CABS said, with the highest density of trapping activity being recorded in coastal areas such as Dingli, Bahrija and Delimara. 

Siskin decoy Malta (Photo: CABS)
Siskin decoy Malta (Photo: CABS)

CABS said that while the officers responding to their calls are usually doing their best, the current enforcement regime is still far from being an effective deterrent. “For an individual poacher, the risk of being convicted is still extremely low. This is compounded by the total failure of the government to stop the illegal trade and take action against fake breeders who steal birds from the wild and sell them as captive-bred specimens,” CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld said. 

The committee said the lack of inspections and missing obligations to register alleged “breeding successes” with the authorities make it extremely easy for poachers to turn their illegal quarry into cash. “If the government really wants to establish an effective enforcement regime – as it has promised to the EU on many occasions – it should stop turning a blind eye to the booming black market and close all legal loopholes which are used to launder and sell trapped birds,” CABS said.