First week of spring hunting takes its toll on protected species

April 3, 2017 3:59 pm

From birds of prey such as Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel to other smaller birds such as a Common Swift, a Barn Swallow and Hoopoes, the first week of the 2017 spring hunting season has already taken its toll on several protected species. Nothing was spared, as the total of known illegally shot birds since the start of the season on Saturday 25th March has now reached eight.

The two Hoopoes which were killed during the past week (Photos by BirdLife Malta)

In all of the cases in which BirdLife Malta was called to assist, the birds were certified as having suffered gunshot injuries, with four of them succumbing to their injuries after they were shot down. More than half of these illegally shot birds were retrieved just over the last weekend alone from different parts of Malta and Gozo.

It is now clear from this week’s events that year after year, spring hunting seasons keep being abused, with protected birds being indiscriminately and illegally shot at and killed. Once again, an open spring hunting season is proving to be a smoke-screen for those who shoot protected birds with little or no enforcement. In view of this BirdLife Malta reiterates its call on the Government to close the 2017 spring hunting season with immediate effect.

The balance of the first week of illegalities is this: three Marsh Harriers, one Common Kestrel, one Common Swift, one Barn Swallow, and two Hoopoes – all retrieved by members of the public. Below is a chronological list of shot birds received by BirdLife Malta during the last eight days:

  • Sunday 26/03/2017 (Day 2 of the season). Marsh Harrier found by a member of the public in his field at Selmun. The bird of prey was taken to the veterinarian who confirmed it was shot and and that it was suffering from injuries to its right wing.
  • Tuesday 28/03/2017 (Day 4 of the season). Shot Common Kestrel recovered by the police.
  • Thursday 30/03/2017 (Day 6 of the season). Dead Common Swift found at L-Irdum tal-Madonna (L-Aħrax tal-Mellieħa). The bird was taken to the vet who confirmed it died from shotgun injuries.
  • Saturday 01/04/2017 (Day 8 of the season, morning). An injured Hoopoe found at Laferla Cross by cyclists. The bird succumbed to its injuries a few hours later.
  • Saturday 01/04/2017 (Day 8 of the season, afternoon). Marsh Harrier found in a valley near Qormi by hikers. Bird was confirmed as having a shotgun injury by a veterinarian.
  • Saturday 01/04/2017 (Day 8 of the season, afternoon). Marsh Harrier found injured on Għasri’s main road in Gozo. Bird was handed over to Victoria Police Station. It died a few hours later due to the severe injuries it sustained.
  • Sunday 02/04/2017 (Day 9 of the season). Another Hoopoe found in Siġġiewi after being shot. Bird died a few hours after being retrieved by a farmer.
  • Sunday 02/04/2017 (Day 9 of the season). Barn Swallow recovered from Marsa with half of its wing almost blown off.

The shot Marsh Harrier recovered from a Selmun field on the second day of the spring hunting season (Photo by Nicholas Barbara)

The fact that all of these shot birds were retrieved from different localities across Malta and Gozo clearly indicates that illegalities are widespread across the country during the current open spring hunting season.

One needs to keep in mind that these retrieved injured birds represent only a fraction of the illegal hunting which is actually happening in the countryside.

Commenting on this first week of the spring hunting season, BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “This is why BirdLife Malta is once again reiterating its call on the Prime Minister to immediately close the spring hunting season in order to protect migratory birds heading to their breeding grounds in Europe.

This will be in line with the zero tolerance approach promised by the Prime Minister himself after the referendum of April 2015. That same year the Prime Minister had taken the bold decision to close the spring hunting season following the landing of an injured shot kestrel in the grounds of St Edward’s College in Cottonera”.

A Common Swift killed during this spring hunting season (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

BirdLife Malta would like to thank the general public for coming forward with reports of illegal hunting and injured birds. We urge anyone witnessing illegal hunting to immediately report the case in order for immediate action to be taken.

Illegalities and cases of injured birds should be reported to the police on 119 and to BirdLife Malta by calling 2134 7645/6 during office hours or our hotline 7925 5697 during evenings and weekends.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.