[WATCH] Bird trappers use cover of darkness with zero enforcement

Trappers sit in their hides and wait for birds in the middle of the night, when all trapping and hunting is banned

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter CABS has urged the Maltese government to immediately close the trapping season for Golden Plovers after its teams witnessed massive abuse in the last nights.

The infringements include the extensive use of illegal bird callers, night trapping outside the permitted hours, contravening the quota – a reporting requirement for trapped birds, as well as the illegal sale of wild caught Golden Plovers (Pluvieri) on the website Maltapark.com.

CABS said that in the last weeks its office had received more than a dozen reports from members of the public complaining about loud bird callers used for illegal hunting and trapping. These reports were confirmed by CABS teams who have mapped a record number of 35 locations from where illegal bird callers for Golden Plovers can be heard.

“Nearly all of the devices are being used on registered trapping sites and can be heard from kilometers away,” CABS wildlife crime officer Fiona Burrows said.

The highest densities of active sites were located around Siggiewi, Delimara, St Thomas Bay, Mgarr, Bahriija, Qrendi, Rabat, Fiddien, Burmarrad, Maghtab, Safi, Zurrieq and on Gozo San Lawrenz and the Ta’ Cenc plateau. 

The NGO also published a video documenting illegal night trapping of Golden Plovers. The footage was filmed with a thermal imaging device, showing trappers sitting in their hides and waiting for birds in the middle of the night, when all trapping and hunting is banned.

“Our investigations have shown that most often the large sites are being manned 24/7 to trap a maximum number of birds. In contrast to Golden Plovers, who are most active during night hours, the ALE – the police unit responsible for enforcing trapping regulations – only works during the day. This massive lack of enforcement during the peak time for plover trapping is exactly the opposite of the strict supervision promised by Malta to the European Commission to justify its controversial trapping derogation,” CABS press officer Axel Hirschfeld said.

The biologist pointed out that plovers trapped outside the permitted hours are not being reported to the Wild Birds Regulation Unitm which is supposed to close the season when the official quota of 700 trapped birds is reached.

“This limitation and the strict supervision are the two key conditions for a derogation under the EU’s Birds Directive. But instead of enforcing these regulations the government obviously has decided to take the EU for a ride and hopes to get away with it,” Hirschfeld said, adding that CABS has repeatedly highlighted the problem of “zero police control” during night hours in the last years to no avail.

CABS announced that its teams will continue to monitor plover trapping and record illegalities as well as the lack of enforcement until the closure of the season in January. The results of the investigation will be used as evidence in a complaint for an alleged breach of EU law by Malta, as well as to provide evidence for court proceedings against the owners of the trapping sites.

More in Nature