CABS films 'gang' of five turtle dove trappers in Mellieha

CABS has filmed a group of five men trapping protected turtle doves in a fenced property directly below the Red Tower in Mellieha

At least one of the men is a known poacher with at least two prior convictions related to illegal bird trapping and hunting
At least one of the men is a known poacher with at least two prior convictions related to illegal bird trapping and hunting

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has filmed during a covert operation on Saturday, a group of five men trapping protected turtle doves in a fenced property directly below the Red Tower in Mellieha.

The NGO said that the footage it recorded showed the poachers sitting in a hide together and activating a more than 20 metre-long clap net, as well as two of men retrieving trapped birds from the net. The men are then seen to place the birds into a large aviary, which CABS claimed contained about 45 live turtle doves.

According to CABS at least one of the men is a known poacher with at least two prior convictions related to illegal bird trapping and hunting, as well as for threatening behaviour.

The government declared last year a moratorium on the hunting of turtle dove, after the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classified the species as vulnerable.

“We called the police at around 7:15am and told them that they have the opportunity to arrest five poachers at one sweep but unfortunately they needed nearly two hours to meet with our team”, CABS general secretary Alexander Heyd said, adding that at this point of the time the trappers were still trapping. CABS said that shortly afterwards, the trappers started to remove the net, stashing it in a bush.

After reaching the site at 9:25am, officers claimed they found neither a net nor any trapped birds.

CABS also disagreed with the decision of Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU), which, after reviewing the footage, refused to confiscate the birds.

“They saw where the trappers stashed the net which was later found and confiscated. They also agreed with us that the turtle doves in the aviary were likely to be illegally caught and announced that the birds will be immediately released,” Heyd said.

However, this did not transpire, due to the police evaluating that there was not enough evidence to prove that the turtle doves were wild-caught.

“We strongly expressed our opposition against this decision but WBRU refused to confiscate the birds arguing that there was no place where the birds could be kept until the case was heard at the court”, Heyd added.

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