BirdLife Malta condemns government’s ‘silence’ as number of illegally shot birds rises to 10

BirdLife Malta has taken the government and the Prime Minister to task for their 'silence' around the number of birds of prey being illegally gunned down, as the number rises to 10

A Marsh Harier was one of the birds illegally shot down this week (Photo: Filip Wieckowski)
A Marsh Harier was one of the birds illegally shot down this week (Photo: Filip Wieckowski)

BirdLife Malta has taken the government and the Prime Minister to task for their “silence” around the number of birds of prey being illegally gunned down, as the number rises to 10.

On Monday, BirdLife reported that eight protected birds had been killed or wounded by hunters since the start of the spring hunting season on 25 March, namely three Marsh Harriers, a Common Kestrel, a Common Swift, two Hoopoes, and a Barn Swallow.

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.

The conservation group had reiterated it call on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to close the spring hunting season as done before.

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.

However, as two more birds were gunned down this week, a Marsh Harrier and a Lesser Kestrel, BirdLife Malta questioned the lack of action on the part of the government in the face of their calls to close the season.

“The only reaction we have had is absolute silence. BirdLife Malta asks what has changed since 2015?” BirdLife Malta said in a statement.

It added that closing hunting season would be in line with the zero tolerance approach Muscat had promised in 2015.

“All the shot birds retrieved since the start of the season are frequent migrants over the Maltese Islands in spring and heavily protected species in the European Union, and having received 10 in just over a week of spring hunting is a mere indication of how many of these birds are being targeted illegally,” BirdLife Malta said.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana reiterated BirdLife Malta’s call for Muscat to immediately close this year’s spring hunting season, pointing out that the last time he had done so was after four birds were illegally shot.

“Up to Monday, eight shot protected birds had triggered no reaction. Will the 10th one do?” BirdLife Malta asked.

The Ornis Committee had recommended the spring hunting season to be opened between 25 March and 14 April. BirdLife Malta had insisted that a spring hunting season should not be opened for quail, on the basis that more than enough birds migrate over Malta during the autumn hunting season. 

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