CABS says ‘hundreds’ illegally trapping birds under cover of legal season

CABS said that in the vast majority of cases, no Wild Birds Regulation Unit officers were available to identify and document the birds being found by the police on illegal finch trapping sites

Bird conservationists CABS (Campaign Against Bird Slaughter) has denounced a “huge comeback” of illegal finch trapping since the Maltese government opened a legal trapping season for Song Thrush and Golden Plover last October.

Over three weeks of field investigations from 20 October to 7 November, CABS birdwatchers documented and reported a total of 65 cases of illegal bird trapping involving at least 78 individuals, 20 of which have been identified and are expected to be taken to court.

“These are only those few cases our field team was able to expose and report. Taking into account the usual dark figure it seems safe to assume that several hundred persons have been involved in criminal bird trapping activity on Malta and Gozo this autumn alone, CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said.

CABS said that in the vast majority of cases, no Wild Birds Regulation Unit officers were available to identify and document the birds being found by the police on illegal finch trapping sites.

Although 124 live decoys used for illegal finch trapping were confiscated in the last three weeks, this only happened when the poacher was not caught by police.

“When the trapper was caught on site by police the live finch decoys were left in the possession of the poachers. This is a massive step back compared to times when it was standard procedure for all specimens on site to be seized, documented by technical experts and held as evidence until a final court decision,” CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.

“By renouncing the confiscation of corpus delicti from the accused the authorities throw the doors wide open for manipulation of evidence in favour of the criminals.”

CABS also noted a sharp increase of poachers who try to cover their faces with masks and balaclavas to avoid being identified by the police. A photo-collage published on the CABS Facebook-page shows several masked “bird thieves” among with portraits of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and State Secretary Clint Camilleri who CABS accused of being the “political accomplices” of the poachers.

“The government knew that poachers would misuse the new regulations as a cover up for illegal operations but decided to do nothing to prevent the massive wildlife-crime-boom we see now. As the central political figure responsible for this fiasco we urge parliamentary secretary Clint Camilleri to take responsibility and either close the trapping season or step down,” Hirschfeld said.

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