Rare vulture reportedly shot down after disappearing from bird-tracking system

The endangered Egyptian Vulture was last seen in Dingli

Distant record shot of the Egyptian Vulture at Buskett yesterday (Photo: BirdLife Malta)
Distant record shot of the Egyptian Vulture at Buskett yesterday (Photo: BirdLife Malta)

An Egyptian Vulture is feared to have been shot down in Dingli after its location disappeared from an Italian vulture-tracking system.

According to a statement from BirdLife Malta, the vulture, named Isabel, left southeast Sicily yesterday morning and reached Gozo later that same morning. Throughout the afternoon it flew over Buskett, and its satellite tag kept transmitting over various locations in the south of Malta.

However, BirdLife Malta stated that the last transmission was registered late yesterday evening at 7:44pm, when it was still visible under the Dingli Radar dome. The association said that reports from birdwatchers and photographers in the area point to the bird having been shot down.

"Illegal killing of boards in Malta is becoming rampant," BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said. "This is mainly due to the fact that a number of years ago the verification process of protected stuffed birds in collections that had benefited from past amnesties, was stopped."

"This means that protected birds can be shot today, like this vulture, and be in time to be placed in a collection, prior to verification."

This bird was born in captivity earlier this June as part of the LIFE Egyptian Vulture project led by CERM Associazione Rapaci Minacciati, which is based in southern Tuscany and houses the world's largest number of Egyptian Vultures in captivity.

This endangered vulture species is highly prized for taxidermy, and is one of the only vulture species one can find in Malta on migration. Malta normally get to see more inexperienced juvenile vultures, who use the islands as a stepping stone between Europe and Africa.