In the last few days thousands of Turtle-doves were illegally shot over Malta and Gozo with the weather conditions pushing birds over our islands. Yesterday, and Sunday, were particularly good days for Turtle-dove migration with single birds and up to flocks of six Turtle-doves observed making landfall at various localities and being indiscriminately targeted by hunters as if it were an open season. Footage we’re releasing today which was taken by BirdLife Malta shows two hunters shooting and killing this vulnerable species, while another five shot Turtle-doves were recovered in the space of two days.
Two of the five Turtle-doves found shot originate from the Federation for Hunting and Conservation (FKNK) claimed land of Miżieb, with BirdLife Malta staff finding a live injured Turtle-dove on Sunday afternoon, followed by another injured dove found by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) from the woodland on Monday. This after several incidences where Turtle-doves observed seeking the shelter of the woodland were met with gunfire. Miżieb accordingly remains a mecca of illegalities where in the past a number of shot protected birds have been found at times buried under rocks.
WBRU refuses to reply how many Quail reported caught so far
While yesterday’s barage of shots were heard from across the islands, several complaints were lodged on social media from members of the public reporting heavy shooting from as early as 4:30am till midday yesterday. With the exceptional numbers of Turtle-doves seen migrating till late morning, BirdLife Malta has reasons to believe that such shots were in their majority targeting Turtle-doves and not Quail for which the spring hunting season is supposedly open for.
In the past days, BirdLife Malta has also received several other shot protected birds including birds of prey, herons, Golden Orioles, Hoopoes and Bee-eaters indicating such species were also being illegally targeted during the open season. In contrast, a request filed yesterday by BirdLife Malta, asking the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) and the Minister for the Environment Aaron Farrugia to provide the numbers of Quail declared caught by hunters so far, remained unanswered.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “It is clear that the Government is in collusion with the hunting lobby to hide these atrocities. The hunting lobby and its members are feeling they can get away with anything right now since the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are bending backwards to give the lobby all they desire including hunting the vulnerable Turtle-dove. It is opportune to recall that when previous Prime Minister Joseph Muscat took a stance and stopped spring hunting short due to illegalities in 2015, we had the lowest year of shot protected birds retrieved. It seems that with Dr Robert Abela at the helm, this year will be having a record number of shot protected birds. He should be ashamed.”
BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara stated: “We haven’t seen such rampant illegalities in ages. Since the start of the year 44 shot birds have arrived to the attention of veterinarians after being found shot and injured by members of the public. Half of these birds arrived since the opening of the spring hunting season on the 10th of April, with no less than 12 illegally shot protected birds received since last Saturday. This is all happening under the guise of a spring hunting derogation to the EU Birds Directive – an exception to the rule Malta should be held accountable for. We will be assisting the European Commission to stop this once and for all.”
Read the Maltese version of the press release here.