Illegal killing of birds remains rampant during 2021

February 4, 2022 10:04 am

During 2021 the number of protected birds known to BirdLife Malta that have been diagnosed as illegally shot stood at 181. This amount is only a small fraction of what really happens in Malta and Gozo since it only represents the injured or dead birds found by the general public. It is fair to conclude that thousands of other protected birds such as birds of prey, Flamingos and herons were illegally shot down and collected by the culprits, mainly for taxidermy purposes.

Upward trend continues as illegally shot birds triple in the past four years compared to previous four

During the past eight years, a total of 794 illegally shot protected birds were found by the general public. The upward trend stands out with 76% of these being in the last four years. In fact, from 2014 to 2017 we had 190 birds being diagnosed as illegally shot while in the past four years, from 2018 to 2021, this more than triples to 604. (see tables below).

The above figures do not include the illegally trapped finches under the scam ‘scientific’ derogation created by the Maltese Government. This smokescreen derogation has already been heavily challenged by the European Commission (EC) and Malta will be taken to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The abuse of such a derogation is so rampant that in just a few months BirdLife Malta received 926 protected finches for rehabilitation, following which they are released back into the wild. A further 120 protected birds were also illegally trapped with the same methods. In November a political decision was taken to halt the involvement of BirdLife Malta in such cases related to finch trapping, in order not to expose the severity of this problem.

Rehabilitated Black-winged Stilt released at Għadira Nature Reserve together with other waders (Photo by BirdLife Malta)

The last year proves once again that the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and the relevant authorities are not taking the problem of illegal hunting and trapping seriously even after the EC has listed this issue as a concern and initiated legal action against Malta for failing to control the illegal hunting situation, apart from the smokescreen ‘scientific research’ derogation allowing finch trapping. BirdLife Malta will be presenting these figures along with video and photographic evidence to the European Commission in the near future.

Rehabilitated Greater Flamingo released at Għadira (Photo by Alexandr Krushlinsky)

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana stated: “There are various reasons why rampant illegal killing is on the rise in Malta. We believe that the lack of discipline by the hunters along with a government that is bending over backwards and sideways to give in to the hunting lobby’s demands for weaker laws, weaker enforcement, and more derogations from the European Birds Directive are the main cause. We are still suffering from two big mistakes taken in the past by governments, both Labour and Nationalist, that had given amnesties to thousands of hunters that had declared over half a million illegally shot protected birds. Vetting of these lists had stopped, making it easy for protected birds being shot today to also be forgiven under those amnesties.

To make things worse, it seems that certain words have never been put into action as in the case of declaring Qawra Point a no hunting zone. While the Minister of Environment publicly stated this following the massacre of protected Greater Flamingos in the area, it seems he failed to find the support from the rest of the Government.  We demand both parties to stop being spineless towards those who break the law and start taking illegal killing and trapping seriously.”

Read the Maltese version of the press release here.

Video documenting the illegalities witnessed during BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp at the start of the autumn hunting season 2021