Today, BirdLife Malta recovered a Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus), one of Europe’s most threatened birds of prey, which was found with shotgun wounds by a member of the public in Gozo yesterday.
This is the second Pallid Harrier known to have been shot in the Maltese Islands in little more than half a year. In September last year, a juvenile male was recovered, again in Gozo. The young bird, making only its third journey between Europe and Africa, which was not seriously injured, was sent to the Centro Recupero Fauna Selvatica, a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Sicily.
There are estimated to be as few as 310 breeding pairs of Pallid Harriers left in Europe, where it is undergoing steep population decline since the 1970s.
“When you consider the small numbers of the bird left in Europe, the impact of having two even to individuals shot on their migration could be catastrophic.”
SpringWatch volunteers and BirdLife Malta conservationists have recovered three shot protected birds and seen numerous others being targeted by illegal hunters in the countryside in the first 24 hours of the bird migration camp monitoring camp.
The other shot protected birds recovered since Sunday morning, include a European Bee-eater found in Baħrija and a Common Cuckoo, found in Chadwick Lakes. On Saturday, BirdLife also recovered an illegally shot Common Kestrel from Gozo.
Illegal hunting in Malta undermining European conservation efforts
BirdLife noted that the Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) is also in decline in many European countries, and especially in the UK, where the population has crashed to less than half of its numbers just 25 years ago. In response, the British Trust for Ornithology have been conducting satellite tracking studies since 2011 in order to better understand the causes of the decline, tagging on 19 Common Cuckoos from populations in England, Scotland and Wales.
Last year, three of the tagged Cuckoos passed within a few kilometers of the Maltese Islands and likely made a stopover on their journey.
“This clearly demonstrates the threat to conservation efforts (and the birds themselves) for UK breeding populations of the Common Cuckoo posed by uncontrolled poaching in Malta”, said Nicolas Barbara, BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager.
BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, Steve Micklewright, said, “Malta cannot expect maintain any credibility in the rest of Europe with regards to its commitments to protect migrating birds if the current administration continues down the path of removing restrictions on hunting without taking adequate steps to ensure that ‘protected’ birds really are protected from illegal hunting.”
BirdLife Malta again reminded the public of its voluntary scheme to recover injured wild birds and appealed for any information about illegal hunting and trapping to be reported to the police and to BirdLife.
Numbers for reporting illegal hunting:
Administrative Law Enforcement: 22942161-3
District Police: 21224001 or 119.
Anyone wishing to volunteer on the Spring Watch camp can still do so by contacting the BirdLife office: 21347644-6 www.birdlifemalta.org