Finch trapping ‘research’ a lie, CABS says as 368 live birds are confiscated

Since 20 October start of trapping season, countless instances of unlawful bird trapping were reported to police

45 large clap-nets and 368 caught live birds were confiscated. (File photo)
45 large clap-nets and 368 caught live birds were confiscated. (File photo)

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter has labelled the government´s finch ‘research project’ “a big lie designed to help poachers to fill their aviaries with thousands of protected birds”. 

The NGO claimed that since the trapping season began on 20 October, its staff have documented and informed the authorities of countless instances of unlawful bird trapping.

Officers from the Environmental Protection Unit and Gozo Police caught 30 poachers red-handed and seized trapping equipment worth thousands of euros. 45 large clap-nets and 368 caught live birds were confiscated. 

The charges against the poachers include trapping of protected species, using more than one clap-net, trapping on unregistered sites, possession of unringed live decoys and the use of illegal electronic bird callers. The confiscated birds – mainly finches and some thrushes – were examined by a vet and later released. 

While CABS praised the police for their rapid response it once again called on the government to ditch the heavily criticised finch research project. “Our data and observations clearly show that the large majority of trappers simply don´t care about science and abuse the system to pocket as many wild birds as possible,” Axel Hirschfeld said. 

CABS stressed that its teams only checked a small fraction of the 3,984 “live capturing stations” permitted by the government. “It is, therefore, safe to assume a considerably high number of unidentified cases which involve hundreds of poachers and thousands of illegally trapped birds,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows stated. 

According to CABS, its staff will continue to monitor Malta and Gozo through the end of January. They will mostly be documenting the contentious Golden Plover trapping season and keeping an eye on the hunting ban in protected areas like the Mizieb woods and Qawra Point, which was designated a nature reserve in September.

“To shed light into the dark figure and acquit itself of the suspicion of actively protecting” the poachers the government should publish data about the number of persons charged by the police without our help,” Burrows said.