BirdLife Malta discovers illegal trapping site again at Fort Ricasoli

March 6, 2020 9:59 am

Spring is just around the corner and migration for many bird species will already be underway. With Malta seeing an influx of spring migrants in the coming weeks, some of our migrant birds are already being placed in danger.

The illegally trapped protected birds found at Fort Ricasoli (Photos by Nik Barbara and Katarzyna Pacon)
Short-toed Larks confiscated by ALE police

Earlier last week, on 25th February, thanks to some investigative operations we have undertaken, a trapping site was located in Kalkara – a site which has been previously reported to police for illegal trapping. Following footage taken of the area, a report was lodged with officers from the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) police unit who attended to the site and found nets as well as a number of illegally trapped birds in captivity.

The unregistered trapping site, found with unattended nets on the ground, is situated within Fort Ricasoli, which is owned by the Government of Malta, and most of it is currently being leased to the Malta Film Commission.

ALE police officers removed the nets and confiscated 23 protected birds that were being kept in captivity. Despite asking for the intervention of Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) experts, WBRU lacked adequate capacity to assist, with police in turn resorting to calling on Environment & Resources Authority (ERA) experts to help in identifying the confiscated birds.

ALE and ERA joint response highly praised, with illegally trapped protected birds released back into the wild

From Short-toed Larks to Robins, a Dunnock, a Tree Pipit and several Chaffinches and Linnets, the birds were inspected by a veterinarian, and later ringed and released by BirdLife Malta at Għadira Nature Reserve. The welfare conditions of most of the birds were poor. The illegally fitted rings and harnesses were all removed by BirdLife Malta, before the birds were fitted with rings from the BirdLife Malta ringing scheme prior to their subsequent release.

The fact that the site was prepared with nets on the ground, and birds kept on site, some of which had been fitted with swivels to be used as live decoys, clearly shows that the trapper was intending to illegally catch birds in the coming weeks.

We are today releasing this exclusive video documenting the full operation from the police raid to the release of the birds back into the wild where they belong.

We congratulate both ALE and ERA for their timely intervention in this case which not only has saved the lives of these wild birds, but also prevented them from being used as live decoys for more illegal trapping at this location. Investigations by police are still ongoing.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here. Watch the video below.

Video edit documenting the full operation from the discovery of the illegal trapping site to the moment when the birds were released back into the wild (Footage by Jose Luque Montero, editing by Jose Luque Montero & Katarzyna Pacon)
Chaffinches and Linnets
Robin in poor condition
Some of the birds prior to being released
The birds being released at Għadira Nature Reserve
Robin being released