Shot bird of prey lands in school grounds of St Edward’s College as total of season casualties reaches 26

October 6, 2017 6:46 pm

Similar incident in same school in April 2015 had led to the premature closure of the hunting season by the Prime Minister

  • Total of known illegally shot protected birds this season rises to 26, five times the amount retrieved during the same period in 2016

  • Amongst the three shot birds recovered during the past 24 hours is another Flamingo, the third one shot this season

Yesterday evening students which were attending a live-in at St Edward’s College in Vittoriosa were shocked when they found an injured bird on the school grounds. It later resulted that the bird was a Honey Buzzard – a protected bird of prey which was confirmed shot by the vet.

The Honey Buzzard (Kuċċarda) found by St Edward’s College students on the school grounds (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

In a BirdLife Malta press conference on the site where the bird was found, the two Year 11 (Form 5) students Sebastian Darmanin Kissaun and Neal Aquilina which found the shot bird, together with their teacher Samantha Abela, recounted their story to the media. This is the same school where a similar incident in April 2015 had led Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to close the hunting season prematurely. The students and their teacher recalled how incidentally it was the same class which two years ago witnessed the shot bird of prey crashing down into the grounds of their school.

Yesterday’s Honey Buzzard recovered from the St Edward’s was not the only shot bird recovered in the last 24 hours. Amongst the three shot birds retrieved between yesterday and today is another Greater Flamingo which was recovered by police from the side of a road in Ħal Farruġ early this morning. The other casualty is a Hobby retrieved from Ħal Millieri, limits of Żurrieq also by the police. Sadly all three birds had to be put down due to the serious injuries they sustained.

The two St Edward’s students and their teacher speaking to the media (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

With these last three shot birds recovered which form part of a total of nine birds retrieved by BirdLife Malta and the police during the past week and a half (since our last communication on 27th September) the total of known illegally shot protected birds this autumn hunting season (since its start on 1st September) has now risen to 26. Comparing like with like, this is five times the amount received during the same period (1st September-6th October) during 2016 when a total of five birds were retrieved.

BirdLife Malta President Darryl Grima and CEO Mark Sultana called on the Prime Minister to display the courage shown in 2015 and take immediate action in the face of the sharp increase in illegalities witnessed this start of season. One has to also point out that this is the second shot bird which landed in a school this season after the shot Grey Heron which was recovered from De La Salle College, also in the Cottonera area, on the 8th September. BirdLife Malta is also repeating its call for the setting up of a Wildlife Crime Unit within the Malta Police Force to ensure the adequate enforcement needed.

Apart from the Greater Flamingo (the third one shot this season after those collected from Ħal Far and Marsaskala on 27th September when we had two of these birds shot in a day) the birds retrieved during the last week and a half also include a Sparrowhawk recovered from Bidnija. This is a bird of prey which is not usually targeted and in fact it is the first time BirdLife Malta is rehabilitating one of these birds. Other birds collected recently are a Grey Heron from Żurrieq and a Grey Heron from Żabbar, a Hobby from Fawwara and another one from Dwejra (Malta), and even a Yellow-legged Gull from Qbajjar Gozo.

Greater Flamingo found by police at Ħal Farruġ (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

The variety of birds and variety of locations from where these birds are being regularly collected goes to show that this is only the tip of the iceberg. Many other birds are shot and collected by hunters for taxidermy or other purposes. Over the past weeks international volunteers from BirdLife Malta’s annual Raptor Camp also observed tens of other injured birds in flight and also incidents of birds which were seen being shot at or being shot down. Cases like these were also observed and filmed by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

Despite the fact that our Raptor Camp has now ended, BirdLife Malta’s local staff will continue – albeit with limited resources – to monitor illegal hunting in the countryside till the end of the hunting season on 31st January 2018. We once again call on the public to assist us by reporting to us and to the police any illegalities they may encounter.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here. You can also watch the press conference held at St Edward’s College here.