Bird trapping: CABS reports 45 cases of abuse, illegal sale of plovers on Maltapark

Trappers could have been tipped off over police raid on illegal bird callers

Volunteers identified a total of 40 bird trapping sites which were used for the illegal night trapping of plovers outside the permitted hours.
Volunteers identified a total of 40 bird trapping sites which were used for the illegal night trapping of plovers outside the permitted hours.

Night inspections by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) have revealed the illegal trapping of Golden Plovers and other nocturnal waterbirds being still widespread and largely uncontrolled. 

The conservationists said that its volunteers identified a total of 40 bird trapping sites which were used for the illegal night trapping of plovers outside the permitted hours. 

“It was not hard to find these sites as all of them used illegal bird calling machines which can be heard for kilometres away, and the majority were also active the past three years at least,” CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.

But whilst finding the poachers and their sites was relatively easy it proved nearly impossible to get the police to site to arrest the poachers and confiscate their illegal gear and quarry. “After our team found sites with active callers in Burmarrad and Mgarr on the 4th and 5th December we called Mosta police who declared that they could not respond as it is the job of the ALE to deal with such cases. 

“However, as ALE don’t work during night hours our reports could not be processed and the poachers were left undisturbed,” Burrows said, adding that officers from the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) were also unavailable to assist with night operations when requested. 
CABS also noted that in the following night (6th-7th December) a joint patrol of CABS staff and ALE officers was organised to dismantle the bird callers and deregister the trapping sites in question.  

“Surprisingly all trappers decided to switch off their illegal calling devices on that particular night and no arrests were made,” CABS president Heinz Schwarze said, adding that on the following night (7th to 8th December), when again no ALE officers were on duty, most of the machines were found active again. 

CABS criticised the government for not providing the ALE with enough resources to cope with the problem of illegal night trapping. 

“The fact that ALE has no regular night working hours also contradicts the new provisions in the legal notice for trapping which dictates that outside permitted trapping hours at least two police officers or marshals shall be on duty,” Schwarze said. 

“By lowering the legal minimum for enforcement-presence to zero the government once again proved that it has no interest whatsoever to bring poachers to justice. This conclusively proves that the government´s repeated declarations that trapping regulations will be enforced strictly are either empty promises or blatant lies,” Schwarze said. 

“By doing nothing against the rampant illegal night trapping the government is also accepting that the official quota of 700 plovers is exceeded by a multiple as poachers, as a rule, do not report their illegal prey to the authorities. On paper Malta has promised to the European Commission to allow only the capture of a few hundred birds but in fact it is not able to determine how many birds are being caught.”

Last week CABS also reported five persons to the police for illegally offering wild-caught Golden Plovers on the internet. The ads in question were all found on the website Maltapark.com and have been forwarded to the police for investigations. According to the law Golden Plovers may not be sold even if the birds were caught legally. It is not known if the police has yet identified any of the suspects. 

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