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Big increase in illegal hunting in Malta – Raptors targeted

19/11/2012 16:42:14
birds/2012_july/Pallid_Harrier_malta

A rare visitor to Malta and one of the most threatened birds in Europe, this juvenile Pallid Harrier was sent for rehabilitation in Sicily after being recovered with shotgun injuries from Gozo.

Shot protected birds doubled this autumn
November 2012, Malta - Since the opening of the autumn season on 1 September, BirdLife Malta has received 62 shot protected birds- nearly double the total of 33 shot protected birds recovered over the same period last year. This is the worst autumn hunting season since the organization started keeping detailed records of shot birds in 2007.

Birds of prey including Pallid harrier
Over 60% of the shot protected birds were birds of prey, including rare species in Europe such as the Pallid Harrier.

Furthermore during BirdLife's international bird monitoring Raptor Camp the conservation organization recorded an additional 124 injured protected birds in flight with visible gunshot injuries, and a further 106 protected birds being shot at or shot down by illegal hunters.

Commenting on the present situation, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager, Nicholas Barbara said "We have been witnessing widespread and commonplace illegal shooting and killing of protected species this autumn. The nearly 300 protected birds we witnessed being killed or received are just those we could record with our limited resources. We suspect that with the shot birds directly reported to the authorities and the unrecorded incidences, thousands of protected birds have been killed this autumn."

An x-ray of a Common Kestrel found in Birkirkara in Malta with multiple gunshot wounds, 8 pellets in its body, blinded in one eye and fractured right leg and wing.

An x-ray of a Common Kestrel found in Birkirkara in Malta with multiple gunshot wounds, 8 pellets in its body, blinded in one eye and fractured right leg and wing.

Police overwhelmed
The flood of dead and injured protected birds received during the autumn hunting season has overwhelmed the Maltese authorities to the extent that the National Museum of Natural History, the Malta Police Force, as well as MEPA have no more capacity to store the carcasses of shot birds.

567 incidents of illegal hunting
BirdLife Malta alone recorded 567 incidences of illegal hunting at 40 different locations in Malta and Gozo during its Raptor Camp in September.

With a daily average of just 3 police vehicles observed patrolling the countryside, the mean response time to illegal hunting incidents reported to police by Raptor Camp teams was 50 minutes.

"All the evidence shows that illegal hunting is getting worse and that current enforcement is not effective in deterring illegal hunters from shooting protected birds," continued Mr Barbara.

BirdLife has repeatedly asserted the need for Malta to institute a dedicated wildlife crime unit with the resources and specialist training needed if it is to effectively tackle illegal hunting and trapping. BirdLife Malta called on members of the public to continue reporting illegal hunting and injured birds incidents to the police and BirdLife.

Guidance on what is illegal and how to report incidents is available on the BirdLife Malta website, www.birdlifemalta.org

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