BirdLife Malta collected two protected birds shot in the last few days of the spring hunting season. A Roller (Coracias garrulus) was yesterday collected dead from a person who found it while walking in fields in Xaghra Gozo. In the evening of the same day, a Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) was retrieved from St Thomas Bay in Marsascala suffering from shotgun injuries. This species has in recent years bred successfully in Malta at both nature reserves in Ghadira and Simar. These two colourful and charismatic birds were targeted to end up as trophies in hunters’ collections.
“This is the result of the lack of action from Government to take a stance in light of the first illegalities earlier in the spring hunting season. It is clear that the zero tolerance attitude seen last year from the Government was only a gimmick” stated BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana. “With the fear of having an early closure of the season dwindling away, the illegalities increased.” BirdLife Malta said that this proves how much the problem of illegal hunting in Malta is far from solved and premature comments of a positive nature normally end being abused of. “We keep on being proven right over and over again that with open seasons we see more illegalities; that the illegalities in Malta will go rampant the moment the pressure is weakened; and that it is fear of closure of the season, rather than goodwill that is keeping the illegalities under check. The moment the fear factor is removed, we go back to illegal killing,” Mark Sultana insisted.
While the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, headed by Mr Sergei Golovkin, and the Parliamentary Secretary Roderick Galdes pride themselves with increasing hefty fines for illegalities, these incidents keep on happening under their watch. These two species, afforded the highest protection under the local wild bird regulations, would get a person fined up to €5,000 if caught hunting them. Such fines seem however to be of little hindrance when enforcement is not adequate.
Apart from the fact that the spring hunting season is opened to hunt the Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur) which status has been declared as vulnerable, it also serves as a smokescreen allowing protected birds to be shot at. “There are no better reasons than these two points to declare an end to spring hunting seasons in our country once and for all” concluded Mark Sultana.