[WATCH] Flock of Short-toed eagles believed to have been decimated – BirdLife

BirdLife Malta said that its members only witnessed one out of 15 leaving the temporary roost in Buskett

A Short-toed eagle spotted on Saturday
A Short-toed eagle spotted on Saturday

A flock of 15 rare and highly-protected Short-toed Eagles (Ajkla Bajda) is believed to have been decimated by illegal hunters by NGO BirdLife Malta. 

The eagles were spotted coming in and settling in the outskirts of Siggiewi and Rabat on Saturday evening, BirdLife said in a statement on Monday. The NGO's members witnessed one of the eagles being shot down at Girgenti but police who were called to the area did not encounter any carcasses.

"In the meantime, the other birds scattered in the vicinity were trying to find a place to roost amind continuous shooting and intense hunting which was going on at the time," the statement read. 

BirdLife Malta volunteers said they only witnessed one bird out of 15 leaving the roost, leaving Buskett at around 6:30am on Sunday. "Most of them are believe to have been shot dead."

Such rare occasions when eagles roosted in Malta in the past were also met with incidents of illegal hunting. The most recent previous record goes back to the start of November 2016 when around 60 Booted and Short-toed Eagles were targeted by hunters in multiple incidents. One incident at Tal-Virtù of a Booted Eagle being shot down had been filmed by BirdLife Malta and this had led to a hunter being jailed and fined. The case is currently at an appeal stage.

"Once again the feeling that hunters can get away with shooting highly protected birds is leaving a disastrous result year after year. This is why, also year after year, BirdLife Malta and other eNGOs have been calling for a Wildlife Crime Unit to be set up within the Malta Police Force which would be equipped with resources and expertise to focus solely on wildlife crime. Once again we call on the Government of Malta to heed our call to set up this unit at the earliest, and also to make sure that it is equipped with the right tools to hinder any hunter that thinks he is above the law," BirdLife said.

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