[WATCH] Thousands of protected birds shot as government was misled, Birdlife says

BirdLife Malta said that the ten protected birds which were retrieved were only “the tip of the iceberg” as many other birds were targeted

BirdLife Malta announced that 10 protected birds were retrieved and confirmed shot by the vet so far
BirdLife Malta announced that 10 protected birds were retrieved and confirmed shot by the vet so far
A common kestrel was found shot in Siggiewi shortly before the press conference on Thursday

The government was advised to move the spring hunting season by those close to the hunting lobby such as Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights Clint Camilleri, BirdLife said today.

This led to the hunting of hundreds of turtle doves over the past few days, as the new hunting season coincides with the protected birds' peak migration, BirdLife CEO Mark Sultana said.

"The government trusted those who advised it [to shift the dates] and this trust was abused," he said.

Eleven birds were recovered by Birdlife Malta and the police since the start of the season – more than one bird per day.

BirdLife said that each and every turtle dove which was seen crossing over Malta was shot at.

Sultana went on to explain that the birds retrieved by the NGO were only a fraction of those who were actually shot, as hunters know they are breaking the law and would take measures to conceal the crime.

Three marsh harriers, three turtle doves, three common kestrels, one pallid harrier and one moorhen are known to have been shot during the past two weeks.

During the press conference, BirdLife members presented an injured common kestrel found just hours prior.

Out of ten hunters, only two would be seen hunting for quail – lying low and flushing through vegetation, while the rest would be observed clearly hunting for turtle dove – standing upright next to hides, BirdLife Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara said.

The prime minister himself is not happy with the level of enforcement during the hunting season, he said, and reiterated that the government takes decisions based on political pressure and not environmental conscience.

Read also: Spring hunting season inspections surpass 1,300 in first five days

Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, BirdLife representatives explained that a more proactive approach is necessary to tackle the issue of illegal hunting. "It could be that information gets leaked to hunters by the police. Someone from the police is lying," Sultana said, suggesting that enforcement officers should be vetted for conflict of interest.

Illegalities also further emphasised the need of a wildlife crime unit within the police force. “We also ask for the enforcement unit within the WBRU to be shifted onto the Environment & Resources Authority (ERA), while a specialised unit within the police force is set up to handle only wildlife crime.”

"While thousands of shots have been heard in all areas of the country in the past two weeks, the number of quails declared shot were a mere 229," BirdLife said, suggesting that hunters do not declare all birds shot and that a significant amount of birds are killed illegally.

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