Turtle-doves are the main target during spring hunting season

April 18, 2020 10:09 am

With the first signs of Turtle-dove migration, BirdLife Malta has already retrieved the first confirmed illegally shot protected Turtle-dove. With more and more Turtle-doves arriving through in the next days, and the peak migration of this bird yet to come in the last week of April, this proves once again that the Maltese Government has purposely created a smokescreen for the illegal killing of the Turtle Dove whose status is today classified as a vulnerable species.

The first illegally shot protected Turtle-dove recovered by BirdLife Malta this spring hunting season

BirdLife Malta officially writes to the European Commission to take action

This was also one of the main points highlighted in a long letter sent to European Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius asking for action to be taken on this blatant abuse of the EU Birds Directive. Apart from the fact that the season was purposely opened during the peak migration of the Turtle-dove rather than earlier when enough Quail migrates for the quota of 5,000 birds to be reached, in the letter BirdLife Malta also mentioned the fact that there is no justification for the spring hunting season. The Government of Malta is stating that the numbers of Quail caught in autumn 2019 were not sufficient and hence a spring hunting season should be allowed. BirdLife Malta however highlighted the fact that from 10,615 hunters only 294 declared catching any of the 40 different bird species in five months of the autumn hunting season. This fact was left out intentionally in the Carnet De Chasse report issued by the biased Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) which is run by trappers and hunters. This just shows that the data on which the Maltese Government is trying to justify the spring hunting season is no data at all.

“It is high time that the European Commission stops the Maltese Government from taking it for a ride and takes a clear stance that it will not tolerate such flouting of European law. This is being requested by BirdLife Malta as part of a massive civil society campaign which is asking for better governance in Malta. Citizens voted for Malta’s entry in the European Union (EU) to make sure the Government is kept in check. We have also sent the letter to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) which should also ensure such derogations permitted under the umbrella of the European Birds Directive, do not peril further the declining Turtle-dove. Rather member states should take measures to protect this species”, stated BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana.

In the meantime, in the past days another four illegally shot protected birds have been retrieved by BirdLife Malta as can be seen from this new video we’re releasing today. Apart from the shot Turtle-dove, BirdLife Malta and police also recovered two Marsh Harriers, a Little Egret and even an Italian-ringed Yellow-legged Gull hatched in Sicily last year. All these were certified by the government veterinary as having been shot, raising the total of illegal hunting casualties since the start of the spring hunting season seven days ago to 10 known illegally hunted protected birds. This is now more than one bird per day.

BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara said: “This year we are experiencing a drastic increase in shot protected birds being found by members of the public – these being an indication of the scale of illegal killing of birds caused by the hunting community. Comparing the last three years from 1st January to date this indicates an increasing trend, which increases even further once we have an open hunting season coinciding with the migration of protected birds. One also needs to keep in mind that the birds retrieved are only the tip of the iceberg, since many other birds are shot at but are never recovered”.

We call on the general public to  continue monitoring and reporting illegalities and to join us in stopping this abuse once and for all. One can support BirdLife Malta by becoming a member at http://bit.ly/joinBLM or becoming a supporter at http://bit.ly/Becomeasupporter.

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

Shot Little Egret
Shot Yellow-legged Gull with Italian ring
Shot Marsh Harrier
Another shot Marsh Harrier
Video edit showing the most recent five illegal hunting casualties of the spring hunting season, including the first shot Turtle-dove recovered by BirdLife Malta