Tens of protected Marsh-harriers massacred by hunters during the night

April 19, 2022 1:35 pm

Hunting enforcement measures are out of control as a result of amnesties on taxidermy collections

BirdLife Malta volunteers and members yesterday witnessed a horrible hunting massacre during the first hours of the night that decimated a whole roosting flock of protected birds of prey in Delimara. Just before sunset yesterday a roost of around 30 birds of prey, mainly Western Marsh-harriers (Bagħdan Aħmar), was spotted in fields at Tas-Silġ, Delimara, limits of Marsaxlokk. A number of hunters watching them till dusk prompted an overnight watch by our teams. A few hours after sunset, gunshots were heard and through night vision optics, the massacre was caught on film. The police were informed and after some time a Rapid Intervention Unit (RIU) team – not Environmental Protection Unit (EPU) officers – arrived on scene unsure what to do and too late to catch the culprits.

Tens of Marsh-harriers illegally targeted by hunters at Delimara during the night (Photos and footage by BirdLife Malta)

The teams remained on site all night and on first daylight they searched the area retrieving five Marsh-harriers, four of which were still alive but injured, while one was dead. The horrible scene left those present in shock and they again called the police to help search the area and hand over the injured protected birds to the government veterinarians as soon as possible.

BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana reacted: “This is shocking and unacceptable. We should not beat around the bush; this massacre is on the hands of those who had given amnesties to hunters who declared over 500,000 protected birds in their taxidermy collections. This is on the hands of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) who failed miserably in controlling these declared lists. These lists had stopped being vetted allowing for hunters to kill protected birds today and place them in their collections or of those who are ready to pay for the specimen. There is an inacceptable racket going on with the blessing of the country’s government. Why do you think hunters are killing these protected birds? Why do you think a young man kills four Flamingos at Qawra Point and jumps into the sea to retrieve them? Why do you think two family members and well-known taxidermists in Gozo are repeatedly found with carcasses, yet very little can be done due to legal loopholes? How can one explain why one of these taxidermists is seen daily with Minister Clint Camilleri during the electoral campaign but police fail to find him to give him the notification of Court sittings? This is a big racket that involves hunters, politicians and enforcement officers.”

BirdLife Malta is demanding that Prime Minister Robert Abela should take it on himself to make sure that vetting of the lists of protected species in hunters’ collections commences immediately. Bird experts within the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) should be asked to handle this remit. We also demand that wildlife crime enforcement is taken seriously keeping in mind that Malta is already facing Infringement Proceedings initiated by the European Commission on this subject.

BirdLife Malta Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara concluded: “We will remain adamant to be as present as possible in the countryside to help protect migratory birds. We will also be submitting a detailed report to the European Commission on this particular incident, and others of recent past, along with a snapshot of the situation in hand related to the mentioned amnesties of the past that is the cause of the rampant and ever-increasing illegal hunting of protected species in Malta.”

Read the Maltese version of the press release here. Watch the footage here and below.

Massacre of protected Western Marsh-harriers at Tas-Silġ, Delimara