‘Sputnik traps’ being used to trap Turtle Doves by Gozitan poachers

Poacher watchdog CABS finds massive vertical mist nest of 100 square metres 

With a size of about 100 square metres, the mist net found below the lighthouse is one of the biggest of its kind ever found by CABS in Malta and Gozo
With a size of about 100 square metres, the mist net found below the lighthouse is one of the biggest of its kind ever found by CABS in Malta and Gozo

Members of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) led police officers to a “massive” vertical mist net in Ghasri, in Gozo. 

The mist net installation was found just below the Gordan lighthouse. 

This was one amongst six other illegal trapping sites for Turtle Dove and Quail in Gozo that the police were led to, CABS have said. 

The others included two illegal cage traps found near Ghasri and the outskirts of Victoria, three sets of clap nets in San Lawrenz, Zebbug and Ghasri, one ground net for Quail-trapping in Marsalforn. The trapping installations were found during a major search operation which involved covert teams and an aerial survey, CABS said. 

CABS said that a new technique to trap Turtle Doves, called ‘sputnik-traps’, is being employed by Gozitan poachers
CABS said that a new technique to trap Turtle Doves, called ‘sputnik-traps’, is being employed by Gozitan poachers

CABS said that a new technique to trap Turtle Doves, called ‘sputnik-traps’, is being employed by Gozitan poachers. They are installed on top of cages containing live Turtle Doves and normally use by pigeon fanciers to secure returning racing pigeons. 

“With a size of about 100 square metres, the mist net found below the lighthouse is one of the biggest of its kind ever found by CABS in Malta and Gozo,” the volunteer group said. “Its dimension and professional setup suggest that this trap was set up and operated by several poachers who intended to catch hundreds of birds with it,” CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said. 

CABS said that they expect the police force to do its utmost in identifying the yet unknown perpetrators and owners of the compound where the net was found. 

The net was found close to a large aviary containing a number of Turtle Doves and songbirds. “Unfortunately, these birds could not be properly inspected to determine thier origin as no enforcement officer or court expert was available,” Hirschfeld said, adding that it was obvious that the birds in the cage have been caught illegally and also served as decoys to lure more birds into the mist net. “As the police officers on site were not trained in bird identification, the birds were left in the aviary without a detailed inspection.” 

Police have confiscated the vertical mist net
Police have confiscated the vertical mist net

The NGO also noted that its activists have counted more than 1,400 live Turtle Doves being kept alive in aviaries close to hunting hides around Malta and Gozo. 

“As trapping of live Turtle Doves has been banned for many years, we wonder where all these birds are coming from,” CABS said, adding that it is impossible that such a huge number of birds have been bred in captivity. Maltese law does not require that breeders have to equip Turtle Doves with closed rings, making it impossible for the police to differentiate between captive-bred and wild-caught birds. 
“This is a massive legal loophole which makes enforcement a mission impossible. We therefore urge the government to change the law and introduce a scheme for the registration and marking of live Turtle Doves kept in captivity,” the NGO said. 

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