Friday, 7 September 2012

Maltese hunters start annual autumn massacre - Where are the police?

Illegal hunters take advantage of lax enforcement on first days of hunting season

September 2012. BirdLife Malta today announced that there were no ALE units patrolling the countryside on the opening weekend of Malta's autumn hunting season, and the organization has already started receiving shot protected birds.

BirdLife Malta received an adult Night Heron and a juvenile Bee-eater, both protected species, on Saturday, the first day of the autumn hunting season. A veterinary surgeon confirmed that both protected birds had sustained gunshot wounds.

This morning BirdLife Malta received the third injured protected bird since the start of the season, a juvenile Marsh Harrier, with visible gunshot injuries. The bird has been taken to vet and the authorities have been informed.

Despite a government statement last week that police would "monitor closely the observance of hunting regulations and conditions", Administrative Law Enforcement officers were assigned to other duties.

Since the migration started in August, BirdLife Malta has reported 18 active illegal trapping sites to police, targeting protected species from Wood Sandpipers to Grey Herons. Half of these illegal trapping sites had already been reported to the police last year.

The ALE were unavailable to respond to any of the incidents of illegal trapping reported by BirdLife Malta teams, referring all calls to the Local or District police. The lack of specifically trained officers lead to police failing to locate live decoy birds, neglecting to remove nets or to confiscate illegal tape lures which play calls to attract birds.

When BirdLife Malta's surveillance teams revisited the areas only a few days later the sites were again actively trapping and targeting protected birds.

"This demonstrates, yet again, the falsity of claims that hunting and trapping law is strictly enforced by the Maltese authorities", said Mr Barbara, adding that BirdLife Malta has long been calling for a dedicated wildlife crime unit to deal with illegal hunting and trapping both during and outside hunting seasons.

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