OAK Foundation

About the project

BirdLife Malta has joined forces with BirdLife partners against illegal bird trapping and killing in Malta, Italy and Cyprus.

BirdLife Malta is a passionate advocate against illegal bird trapping and killing practices and campaigns for a better protection of wildlife. Since 2016, we have partnered up with the Oak Foundation as well as two other BirdLife partners (BirdLife Cyprus and LIPU) in an attempt to tackle illegal bird killing as well as increase public awareness and education on the issue in the Mediterranean.



Our main objectives of this project include:

– reduce the number of trapped birds

– to address illegal bird trade

– to discourage hunters and trappers from practising illegal activities

– to cooperate with law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to create awareness of the current situation on illegal trapping.

This project was officially launched in Malta on the 1st of January 2016.

Background information

Despite many actions by different NGO’s, illegal hunting and trapping still remains a big challenge in many Mediterranean countries. Birds are captured and killed with different techniques while they are on their journeys between their wintering grounds in Africa (African-Eurasian Flyway) and their breeding grounds in Europe and Asia. This is not something that is solely happening in Malta; it is sadly a situation that is widespread throughout the Mediterranean, claiming the lives of an estimated 25 million of birds per year according to Birdlife International.

Based on reports from BirdLife International published in 2016, Malta, Italy and Cyprus account for an estimated 1/3 of those killings in the Mediterranean region. BirdLife Malta therefore formed a strong partnership with BirdLife Italy (LIPU) and BirdLife Cyprus to combat these threats to our wildlife that undermine conservation efforts aiming towards increased wild bird populations.

The situation in Malta

In Malta both trapping and hunting is legal for specific species during a specified period in spring and autumn.

According to a recent report by BirdLife International, it is estimated that 108,000 birds are killed illegally every year, with a minimum of 5,800 and a maximum of 211,000 birds. During the spring and autumn migration BirdLife Malta volunteers and staff monitor the countryside for illegal trapping and we work with the local police units to tackle any illegalities encountered.

Over the past 10 years we have witnessed a sharp decrease in the number of shooting incidents at protected species. However, there still needs to be a lot of work in order to eliminate the illegalities aimed at wild birds in Malta.

Poaching pressure can diminish population numbers critically and bird populations are already threatened by other threats such as habitat destruction and other human impacts. Furthermore long-distance migrants have been shown to suffer more population declines than short-distance migrants and resident birds.

News from our partners

After one year into this project all the BirdLife partners as well as BirdLife Malta have been very successful in reducing illegal wildlife crime as well as cooperating more with the local enforcement units and engaging the public using the approaches described above. However, it is too early to assess the success of this project as a whole.


During 2016 Birdlife Italy (LIPU) has organised three week-long volunteer camps. Volunteers were trained on how to remove the traps and collect evidence which were later provided to the local enforcement units.

In this case the numbers speak for themselves. During these camps:

– 2,381 traps were removed and

– 21 people were identified and reported to the authorities.

– 2 people have been prosecuted with poaching inside a Protected Area

– A total of 730 dead birds were collected and 250 were released


For the first time in Cyprus the use of hidden surveillance and reporting of illegal trapping was established after an increase in communication between the British Sovereign Base Area (SBA) Police and especially the SBA Police Anti-poaching unit and BirdLife Cyprus. This project also utilised experienced detection officers from the RSPB (BirdLife UK) in order to train the law enforcement agencies as well BirdLife Cyprus staff

– Video surveillance equipment was installed at eight known active mist netting trapping sites

– 18 individuals were recorded to commit illegal actions including setting up and removing the nets as well as extracting and killing birds

This footage is of high quality and it is currently being used to prosecute the offenders.

Educational materials as well as a fun craft activity booklet are currently being produced by BirdLife Cyprus staff. Furthermore,  efforts to set up a free application that will include a bird guide, a game as well as a tool to report illegal bird trapping with a GPS mapping and photography capabilities.


BirdLife Malta conducted legal and illegal trapping monitoring in both Malta and Gozo in spring, summer and autumn seasons. Illegalities were documented and reported to the local authorities.

– 87 illegalities in Malta and Gozo were witnessed and reported

– 89 additional illegalities that were witnessed lacked enough evidence to be reported.

– Aerial survey identified 3165 trapping sites

– An aerial survey over Gozo’s and Malta’s protected areas uncovered that out of the 106 trapping sites only 57 were registered (54%)

– Six market surveys were conducted to survey finch trading market and illegal activities were filmed and reported to the police