BirdLife fears hunters’ attack is ‘just the start’ • Victim says hunters could have killed him

BirdLife director Steve Micklewright slams attacks on birdwatchers, says “BirdLife are often the victims whenever hunters do not get whatever they want.”

BirdLife Malta director Steve Micklewright
BirdLife Malta director Steve Micklewright

One of the 13 BirdLife birdwatchers that were attacked by hunters this afternoon at Buskett has spoken of his relief that no one was seriously injured, insisting that if they had been hit by the stones that the hunters were throwing, “they [birdwatchers] would have ended up dead.”

The victim’s comments come just hours after a group of 30 hunters attacked and assaulted BirdLife birdwatchers at Busket. The hunters – which are said to have attended today’s protest at Valletta – are said to have been questioned by the police.

But despite the police’s interrogation, BirdLife Malta director Steve Micklewright has expressed his fear that today’s attacks are “just the start,” stating that whenever hunters are dissatisfied, birdwatchers and environmental NGOs suffer the brunt of their attacks.

Earlier today, a group of arounf 150 hunters held an illegal protest march in Valletta, during which they were heard demonstrating against the government's decision to ban the autumn hunting season. 

Speaking to MaltaToday outside the Rabat police station – where the 13 birdwatchers lodges a police report against their assailants – Micklewright insisted that today’s attack was not a one-off occurrence, but conversely, it has happened before.

“This is not the first time that hunters attacked BirdLife officials or birdwatchers. A couple of years back a hunter shot one of the officials at the Ghadira Nature Reserve in the face,” he said while referring to the 2007 incident where Ghadira nature reserve warden was shot in the face by a hunter.

“This is just thuggery and pointless violence. It makes hunters look like the thugs they actually are. We do not want any more violence, if the hunters want to protest, they should this in a peaceful and democratic way,” Micklewright said in comments to MaltaToday.

One of the victims explained that at around 5pm a group of 30 hunters – whom the victim dubbed as “criminals who are ready to attack people” - gathered near the pig farm in Buskett.

“All of a sudden, they got out of their cars to attack us. They started throwing rocks and bottles. God willing we were not hit by the rocks, because if we were hit, we surely would have ended up dead,” the victim said.

The birdwatcher said that upon seeing the hunters run towards them, they started running to seek protection. Nevertheless he said, two birdwatchers – one of whom is a 60-year-old man - were caught and attacked by the hunters.

“Even though there was a seven year old child and women with us, the hunters still attacked us. One person was attacked by at least four hunters and sustained an injury to his face, while another suffered injuries to his leg,” he said.

Speaking to MaltaToday, the victim called on the police to apprehend the assailants, insisting that if the hunters go unpunished, “they will do this again.”

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