Yesterday was a sad day for Malta’s conservation efforts when two Black Storks were shot dead. BirdLife Malta’s officials witnessed one of the Black Storks (Ċikonja Sewda) struggling in flight over Buskett with what looked like a blood stain on the chest. It eventually died and was in police custody.
The Black Stork was originally one of two birds shot at on Gozo. One was killed and picked up by a hunter, the details of which have been passed on to the police by BirdLife Malta. The other Black Stork, although suffering from gunshot injuries to the belly and had lead pellets in the left wing, had continued to migrate and reached Malta where it joined three White Storks (Ċikonja Bajda) seen at the airport area, but succumbed to its injuries and was handed to the police. Another White Stork was earlier observed in Gozo, apparently also with an injury.
Two of the White Storks are ringed, with rings belonging to the Italian ringing scheme tracing them back to Udine in north-east Italy. It is interesting to note that this is the second time that birds from this conservation project in Italy have made their way to Malta. On the 16th of September 2014, a flock of ten storks from the same area had roosted in Marsa with one of them shot dead leading the Government to close the hunting season.
Following the illegal killing of protected birds in the last few days including Night Herons, Bee-eaters, a Golden Oriole and reportedly a Honey Buzzard this morning (see timeline of illegalities at the end of this press release), this latest case of the Black Storks is a clear sign that with all the good intentions from Government and the Administrative Law Enforcement Unit (ALE), illegal hunting in Malta is yet uncontrolled. While one cannot argue that in general terms the situation of illegal hunting in Malta has improved, the latter cases in the past days indicate this year could be one of the worst in recent years.
In view of all this, BirdLife Malta is requesting the Government to suspend the hunting season till the 15th of October, in order to allow a safer passage during the migration of protected birds such as birds of prey, herons, and possibly other flocks of storks. BirdLife Malta reminds the Government that the laws and fines enacted are there to protect birds and hence if these fail, more drastic measures would be expected such as suspending the season. This would not be a collective punishment but a method of safeguarding the birds.
BirdLife Malta wants to thank the Malta Police Force for its constant collaboration and also the general public for the information they continuously pass over and urges them to keep this up. The struggle to safeguard birds is still not over and those who would like to support our work could also become members. This can be done by visiting https://birdlifemalta.org/become-member.
Timeline of illegalities since start of 2016 autumn hunting season
- 6th of September, Valletta: Yellow-legged Gull (Gawwija Prima) Larus michahellis recieved with three pellets in its right wing, leg and neck and had to be euthanised
- 10th of September, Wied ir-Rum, limits of Dingli: at least three Night Herons (Kwakka) Nycticorax nycticorax reported seen falling to the ground after a flock of herons came under fire
- 10th of September, Tal-Virtù, Rabat: Two Bee-eaters (Qerd in-Naħal) Merops apiaster reported having been shot dead over the area
- 10th of September, Manikata: Golden Oriole (Tajra Safra) Oriolus oriolus shot and euthanised due to injuries sustained
- 12th of September, Gozo and Malta: Two Black Storks (Ċikonja Sewda) Ciconia nigra shot dead
- 13th of September, Ħal Far: reports of a Honey Buzzard (Kuċċarda) Pernis apivorus shot down being investigated
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.