The impacts of Raptor Camp

October 10, 2013 11:02 am
by Alex Cropper

Oh god I didn’t want to get up. The bed which I had slept in for the last five hours still
beckoned me. Temptation was strong, should I just dive back under the covers and sleep for a few more hours until breakfast or should I get up and prevent protected birds from getting needlessly slaughtered? No choice really, I got up. I get up every morning in the final two weeks in September and attempt to do just that, save birds from the hunters’ gun. 

An artists impression of the 5:00 am briefing before the morning shift begins.
Photo: David Nigel Griffiths
In the wee small hours we convene, we say our ‘good mornings’ and ‘my god you look roughs,’ we get assigned our teams, our locations and then we go out, braving sleep deprivation and unfamiliar Maltese roads.

So why do I do it, this Raptor Camp? Put very simply, I do not want to see birds get killed for pleasure, especially when the prime reasons are sport and taxidermy. I can’t get my head around the need to murder a Honey Buzzard at point blank range just so it can go in someone’s dusty collection. I don’t understand the need to shoot down an Osprey just so its identity ring can be collected and displayed as a macabre trophy. The very same identity ring that an ornithological group has spent hundreds of euros, and many hours attaching to the bird in order to learn about it. I also don’t like the idea of trapping smaller birds in nets and confining the rest of their life to a small cage. Gone are its chance of successfully migrating and breeding in the wild.

A ‘Privat’ sign of problems new and old. The finch trap lies abandoned whilst the wader trap is readied for the new season. Photo: Alex Cropper

I do see change however. The evidence is all around. Decaying hunters hides and disused trapping sites abound. The change has been championed for over 50 years by Birdlife Malta, and it is something I am glad to be involved with.

But back to the morning shift… It is chilly, dark and the sun is half an hour from rising. An important raptor roost site is being monitored. The only sounds to be heard are from hunters’ quail lures and from our equipment, our breath, and our hearts. The next sound we hear will be gunfire.

To support BirdLife Malta’s bird protection camps and other work to end illegal hunting in the Maltese Islands please Join BirdLife Malta

You can also DONATE to help us meet the ever increasing costs of the camps, including the purchasing of essential equipment for monitoring and recording illegalities like shooting at protected birds to support police prosecution of illegal hunters.

Raptor Camp 2013 is being supported by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, who have provided photo/video-scope equipment for use in BirdLife Malta activities to prevent and detect illegal hunting.