Eight protected birds gunned down in first week of spring hunting season

Eight protected birds were illegally gunned down in various locations around Malta and Gozo in the first week of this year’s spring hunting season, prompting BirdLife Malta to reiterate its call for the season to be closed

Four of the birds that were illegally shot succumbed to their injuries
Four of the birds that were illegally shot succumbed to their injuries

Eight protected birds were illegally gunned down in various locations around Malta and Gozo in the first week of this year’s spring hunting season, prompting BirdLife Malta to reiterate its call for the season to be closed.

The 2017 spring hunting season opened on 25 March and will run until 14 April. Unlike previous spring hunting seasons, this one is only be open for quail after the turtle dove – the other previously huntable species – was deemed vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

However, conservation group BirdLife Malta has reported that a total of eight birds, including a Common Swift, a Barn Swallow and Hoopoes, have been shot since the opening of the season.

“More than half of these illegally shot birds were retrieved just over the last weekend alone from different parts of Malta and Gozo,” BirdLife said in a statement.

The birds were found in locations around both islands, namely l-Ahrax tal-Mellieha, Qormi, Siggiewi, Marsa, Selmun and Laferla Cross in Malta, and Ghasri in Gozo.

BirdLife Malta said that the fact that all the shot birds were retrieved from different localities indicated that illegalities were widespread across the country. “One needs to keep in mind that these retrieved injured birds represent only a fraction of the illegal hunting which is actually happening in the countryside,” BirdLife added.

According to BirdLife Malta, four of the protected birds succumbed to their injuries.

BirdLife Malta reiterated its call on the government and on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to close the hunting season with immediate effect as was done in the past.

In 2015, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat ordered the immediate closure of the spring hunting season after a protected bird of prey – a kestrel – was shot by a hunter, falling into the football pitch of St Edward’s College in Cottenera while the students were on their lunch break.
Muscat, who supported a Yes vote during the 11 April 2015 spring hunting referendum, had warned that “flagrant abuses” would not be tolerated. Following the Cottenera incident, the government said that inexcusable abuses would no longer be endured.

"BirdLife Malta is once again reiterating its call on the Prime Minister to immediately close the spring hunting season in order to protect migratory birds heading to their breeding grounds in Europe. This will be in line with the zero tolerance approach promised by the Prime Minister himself after the referendum of April 2015. That same year the Prime Minister had taken the bold decision to close the spring hunting season following the landing of an injured shot kestrel in the grounds of St Edward’s College in Cottonera” BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said. 

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