[WATCH] CABS release video of White Stork shooting

Birdlife Malta monitored a surviving group of white storks which rested for the night

The flock of White Storks which was decimated by Maltese hunters.  Picture by Mark Sultana
The flock of White Storks which was decimated by Maltese hunters. Picture by Mark Sultana

A flock of white storks was decimated by hunters yesterday, with up to three white stork reported shot. The shooting has taken place in the closed season and days after the Muscat administration announced that it would open a spring hunting season. The application of the derogation is being contested by Birdlife Malta, accusing the government of basing its arguments on phoney figures provided by local hunters.

Poachers have killed at least 2 White Storks near Salina yesterday afternoon. The birds belonged to a flock of 13 storks which has been monitored by CABS and Birdlife since its arrival on Saturday. When the birds tried to land on the slopes of Maghtab at around 4 pm, a series of gunshots were fired at the flock. A CABS team patroling the area managed to record the shooting on video. "The footage shows two birds being hit and literally falling down from the sky", outlines CABS president Heinz Schwarze.

The birdwatchers alerted the police, who searched the area but were unable to find either the dead storks nor the men who killed them. After the incident only 10 storks were observed flying towards Buskett, indicating that a third bird was killed out of sight of the surveillance team. A copy of the video has been handed over to the A.L.E. today and was also uploaded on Youtube.

 

Since Friday reports made by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) have also led to police investigations against 4 bird trappers near Dingli, Manikata and Gharghur, where the police seized three clap nets and five live finches. In the town of San Gwann, CABS reported a massive trapping site to the police, whereupon they confiscated two 10-metre long mist nets, two cage traps and a newly-caught robin.

"The fact that a single CABS team is able to expose 6 serious environmental crimes within 48 hours proves that the situation is still far away from being satisfactory" Schwarze said. CABS accused the government of downplaying the poaching problem and wasting tax payers money by retaining an ineffective enforcement system.

In a press release, the government yesterday said that the police conducted 7,619 field inspections and spot checks which gave rise to the disclosure of only 85 trapping-related offences and 73 hunting-related offences last autumn. "If one considers that a large part of these offences could be disclosed only because CABS or Birdlife alerted the police and provided the necessary evidence, this data is rather a declaration of bancrupcy than proof of improvement", CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said. According to the lines "quality rather than quantity" CABS repeated its call on the government to establish a dedicated wildlife crime unit within the ALE.

The White Stork is a protected species and is considered to be a unique bird associated with good fortune. The White Stork massacre comes after a similar incident last September which saw the killing of numerous eagles. 

Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes has come under criticism for paying lip service to enforcement and being close to the hunting lobby.  He has also been accused of surrounding himself with hunters. One of his consultants is Bertu Pace, a hunter and an ex-Labour candidate.

 

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