Undercover volunteer team uncovers illegal finch trade in Rabat

Members of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter disguised as tourists witnessed the illegal sale of unringed finches. 

One of the finches offered for sale in Rabat
One of the finches offered for sale in Rabat

Bird trappers are illegally selling greenfinches in the city centre of Rabat, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said. A CABS team disguised as tourists visited the stalls on Saturday and saw how birds were offered for sale for prices ranging between €30 and €100.  

“We saw about 20 cages with greenfinches placed on a wall and many people standing around. We asked one of the man what he was doing and he answered that he is selling the birds,” CABS volunteer Jonathan Blair said. “When we saw that most of the birds had no rings, we alerted the police.”

A joint AFM/ALE patrol and a MEPA official arrived on the scene within 20 minutes and the bird owners were taken to the Rabat police question for questioning.

“According to Maltese law, it is illegal to sell any finches without closed rings which prove that they are bred in captivity,” CABS said. “We provided the police with the particulars of four of our volunteers who can testify that the birds have been offered for sale. We will upload photos and video footage which show the unringed birds as well as one of the trappers confirming that he is selling them.”

“It is safe to assume that the birds have either been caught illegally in Malta or have been smuggled into the country,” CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said. “The illegal trade of wild-caught finches is a big business in Malta with an estimated volume of hundreds of thousands of euro per year.”

“This has nothing to do with tradition. It is about making money.”

CABS said that it has reported over 20 illegal bird trapping operations, most of them targeting greenfinches, between March and April this year.