BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp 2016 kicks off today with the aim of monitoring illegal hunting of wild birds during the period when the peak autumn migration coincides with the hunting season.
Raptor Camp is an international camp organised by BirdLife Malta every year and will this year take place between the 19th September and 9th October – three full weeks during which 20 volunteers from 8 different countries will be all around Malta and Gozo’s countryside to make sure that the birds that are traditionally targeted in Malta are protected.
Malta is situated on the central migratory route between breeding grounds in Europe and wintering grounds in Africa, serving as a critical resting place in the Mediterranean for migratory birds. Nevertheless, with around 10,000 registered hunters it has the highest density of hunters in the European Union. Unfortunately, birds that pass over the Maltese Islands are still met with illegal gunfire, and as observed by CABS earlier last week, “although the autumn hunting season in Malta is only two weeks old, we already have seen more illegalities than during the whole spring hunting season”.
The illegalities reported during the first few days of the 2016 autumn hunting season, particularly the killing of two Black Storks, led BirdLife Malta to call on the Prime Minister to suspend the hunting season with immediate effect but the Government reacted by brushing away the suggestion and using the Ornis Committee as an excuse stating that it is this committee which which has the prerogative to suspend or change the parameters of any hunting season. Although footage evidence of more criminal acts against raptors and other protected species emerged in the next few days confirming that illegal hunting at this time of year is still uncontrolled, up to now still no action has been taken. BirdLife Malta still insists that the season should be closed until the 15th of October when the birds of prey migration slows down in order to make it more difficult for illegal hunting to take place.
It is under these circumstances that Raptor Camp 2016 will start today. During the next three weeks the international volunteers will join forces with BirdLife Malta’s own staff and will be patrolling those areas where illegal hunting usually takes place, collecting bird migration data and reporting illegal hunting activities to the authorities on a daily basis.
We reiterate our call to the authorities, in particular the Malta Police Force and the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit to put the protection of birds and their habitats on top in their agenda. We expect the ALE to immediately take the necessary actions against those who are caught breaking regulations. We will remain willing to assist and collaborate with enforcement officers as we have always done.
BirdLife Malta Conservation Coordinator Nick Piludu, who is the camp coordinator, commented “We are only two weeks into the hunting season and the number and gravity of illegalities observed so far is much worse than expected. This season is shaping up to be a hard one, but luckily this year’s Raptor Camp team is composed by volunteers who know the island like the back of their hand and have extensive experience in protecting birds and combating wildlife crime. This being said, reports from the public are essential for our work, so if you witness illegal hunting, exceptional migration events, experience intimidation in the countryside, or find an injured bird, please get in touch with us.”
Any illegalities should be first reported immediately to the Police on 119, and then to BirdLife Malta on 2134 7645/6 or on our emergency number 7925 5697 during out of office hours. Other reports can be sent by email to [email protected] or by leaving us a Facebook message on www.facebook.com/birdlifemalta.
The autumn hunting season, which runs for five whole months of autumn from 1st September 2016 until 31st January 2017, allows the hunting of 40 species from land and 12 species at sea. All other species are protected by national and international law. Hunting of birds at sea is permitted only from 1st October. Between 15th September and 7th October hunting is not permitted from Monday to Saturday after 19:00 up to two hours before sunrise of the next day. Between 8th October and 31st January it is not permitted from Monday to Saturday between two hours after sunset and two hours before sunrise of the following day. On Sundays hunting is not allowed after 13:00. The autumn hunting season for the now vulnerably classified Turtle Dove on land lasts only up to 30th September with an overall bag limit of 7,000.
It has been proven that the presence of BirdLife Malta teams on the ground helps deter illegal hunting. Raptor Camp is an essential part of BirdLife Malta’s work and is only possible with the support of volunteers and with funds raised through memberships and donations. To help BirdLife Malta continue this vital work, please visit our website to donate: https://birdlifemalta.org/donate or become a member: https://birdlifemalta.org/become-member.
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.