BirdLife Malta demands actions by Government to show zero tolerance stance on illegal killing of protected birds

August 16, 2018 2:14 pm

Hunting lobby FKNK has lost control of its members after seven White Storks have been confirmed shot till now.

In reaction to the latest news of a further three White Storks being shot dead yesterday evening at Magħtab, BirdLife Malta expects clear action from the Government demonstrating that it will not tolerate these atrocities anymore, especially now that it is clear that the hunting lobby has lost control of its members. Last week, 18 White Storks migrated over Malta and on Friday the 10th of August, four of them were witnessed being shot down. In contrast to the outcry from the general public, the hunting lobby led by FKNK (federation for hunters, trappers and conservationists) issued a statement in which it blamed the European Commission and the European Court of Justice for these illegalities, hinting that this is what can be expected when their lobby doesn’t get what they want. They were clearly referring to the latest ECJ verdict on the finch trapping derogation that practically
meant the end of finch trapping in Malta. Following this position, a further three White Storks were shot dead yesterday evening in Magħtab.

Shot White Stork (Photo by Alice Tribe)

Today the flock has been decimated to six individuals from the original 18 and although seven have been witnessed shot, there is very little doubt that the five missing ones have most probably met the same fate. Currently a hunting season for rabbit permits hunters to hold and carry shotguns openly in the countryside during the day. BirdLife Malta wanted to thank the police force and the general public, that have joined the organisation’s outcry and have assisted police by calling, filming and reporting incidents. It is thanks this help that two persons are now being questioned, one of which has already been taken to court and denied bail. Mark Sultana, CEO of BirdLife Malta, said: “This situation proves a number of things; firstly that the hunting associations have lost control of their members and that more hunters are disregarding the law possibly encouraged by the latest public statement by FKNK. It also proves that our country’s fines and legislation are not deterring hunters from killing protected birds.” BirdLife Malta reminded that in 2014 following the killing of White Storks in Magħtab Malta, the Government had increased the fines.

A shot White Stork at the vet. (Photo by Alice Tribe)

This however seems to have had no effect since for the past years, illegal hunting of protected birds has been on the increase. “The hunting lobby thinks that they can take our country hostage. Our Prime Minister now needs to show who leads and takes the right decisions in this country. We urge him to send a clear message of zero tolerance on such incidents by taking concrete actions and decisions,” Mark Sultana insisted. From now until the end October, Malta and Gozo will be vital resting points for various protected birds mainly birds of prey who will be migrating south, but also other majestic birds such as Black and White Storks. In an effort to help enforcement and to safeguard these beautiful birds, the Government should seriously consider delaying the opening of the hunting season till November. This  would also send a clear message that our country does not tolerate those who do not respect its laws. “We also expect the Government to seriously think strategically to eradicate the illegal hunting phenomenon that is on the increase again in Malta. Revisiting the taxidermy laws, curfews of hunting during migration, investing in a proper wildlife crime unit and restarting the process of verifying and tagging declared stuffed birds’ collections.” Mark Sultana continued: “the general public’s outcry on these atrocities are a clear message and a call for action by our Government.

The Prime Minister should realise that the vast majority of the Maltese and Gozitans want to see better bird protection and more environmentally-friendly measures. He has to listen to these calls and stop the country being held hostage by a hunting lobby who tolerates illegalities. On behalf of BirdLife Malta, I wanted to thank all those who have shown their clear position on the matter. The general public is what gives us the most hope for improvement, but the ball lies solely with the Government now.”

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.