BirdLife wants hunting season postponed after poachers target 40 birds of prey in two days

BirdLife writes to Prime Minister Robert Abela calling for the hunting season to open in October rather then September to safeguard the migration of protected species

BirdLife said that the Prime Minister should immediately condemn the illegal hunting (File photo)
BirdLife said that the Prime Minister should immediately condemn the illegal hunting (File photo)

BirdLife Malta wants the autumn hunting season to open after the 15 October to avoid the shooting of protected birds of prey that normally migrate in September.

The bird conservation group made its request in an open letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela after 40 black kites, a protected species, were killed in two days.

BirdLife said that if the Prime Minister could not provide assurances that illegal hunting would be fought with strict enforcement and better laws, then hunting seasons had no place in Malta. “The Prime Minister should immediately condemn what has happened,” BirdLife said in a statement.

It said that all the hunters' desires were being met and that it was "shameful" and "illegal" that the enforcement and regulations were being weakened. "This goes against the legal obligations of Malta as an EU member state."

CEO Mark Sultana said that the least Abela could do was to suspend the opening of the hunting season till after 15 October to safeguard the migration of protected species like raptors and herons.

He said this needed to be supported by law enforcement units present in the countryside to monitor those who were still willing to break the law.

“The hunters have proven once again that they have taken the government hostage. The people of Malta, whose majority are against hunting, deserve better and the Prime Minister should show he has not lost control over this lobby with immediate effect,” Sultana said.

40 black kites targeted by hunters

According to the NGO, 40 black kites - a protected bird of prey reached Malta on the evening of Monday 22 August and tried to roost in the area of Mtarfa and Mgarr.

BirdLife said that despite the hunting season being closed, hunters started shooting the birds late in the same evening, with the Environment Protection Unit within the Police Force unable to respond to reports as they work till 9pm.

It said that hunters escaped with their catches and it received reports of gunshots in the area later in the night.

BirdLife added that the next morning only some individual black kites were seen leaving the roost site. Gunshots were heard again and with the EPU present, a hunter was caught with his shotgun but with no birds in his possession, BirdLife said.

It said that in the evening a flock of 28 were seen coming over Gozo and circling around Ramla Bay valley, with hunters once again aiming their guns at the birds.

According to BirdLife, the Gozitan police stated they had no resources to be on site.

“This lack of law enforcement allowed the hunters to easily hunt down every single bird that tried to roost in the valley,” BirdLife said.