Poacher arrested with 136 live protected birds in Għaxaq

Illegal bird trapping: CABS and police raid illegal trapping operation in Għaxaq - 136 live protected birds and poaching paraphernalia seized

Finches confiscated in the police raid in Għaxaq
Finches confiscated in the police raid in Għaxaq

Police raided a property in Ħal Għaxaq in what is one of  the largest, illegal, live bird collections ever seized in Malta in recent years.

An investigation conducted by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) led the police to the field where a total of 136 live protected birds from 18 species were seized.

CABS, a conservationist NGO active in Malta, found that a field near Għaxaq was being used for large-scale illegal trapping and that a multitude of protected birds were being held on the same property.

The information was handed over to the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) who – together with experts from the Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU) – inspected the site and confiscated two sets of large clap-nets and a total of 136 live protected birds.

Several plastic decoys and stuffed herons – another protected species – were also taken as evidence.

A male suspect was apprehended on site. He is expected to be prosecuted for illegal trapping and illegal possession of protected species. According to CABS the suspect may also face charges for animal cruelty violations.

Experts from BirdLife Malta assisted in the logging and banding of every bird with a scientific ring before the release. Unfortunately due to the terrible conditions that the birds were kept in, eight of the waders did not survive, another six were too ill  to release and must first recover in a rehab centre.

A large number of the others suffered from deliberately cut flight feathers and concretions of faeces on the feet due to unsuitable living conditions, however they will still be able to be released in the near future.

CABS thanked the police officers and the WBRU for their fast response and hard work on this case. The NGO said that its teams will continue to search for illegal trapping sites and monitor the ongoing hunting season until the end of the year.

The live birds found on the site include 16 green sandpipers, 16 wood sandpipers, 16 common sandpipers, 16 greenfinches, 13 little ringed plovers, 12 linnets, 9 little stints, 9 siskins, 8 chaffinches, 5 common ringed plovers, 5 serins, 3 black-winged stilts, 2 tree sparrows, 2 Temminck´s stints, 1 goldfinch, 1 yellow wagtail, 1 red throated pipit and 1 greenshank. The birds were inspected by a vet and later released in the Ghadira Nature Reserve.