The Malta Independent 22 October 2020, Thursday

BirdLife And CABS find 80 dead birds hidden in Mizieb

Malta Independent Tuesday, 21 September 2010, 00:00 Last update: about 7 years ago

On the anniversary of the discovery of over 200 dead protected birds stashed throughout the Mizieb woodland, BirdLife Malta and CABS yesterday revealed more evidence of illegal killing of protected birds.

Two CABS volunteers were assaulted by men who admitted they were hunters yesterday morning, and more than 80 dead birds – some freshly killed and others killed in the past – were handed over to the police. The birds were discovered yesterday morning hidden under rubble, stones and pellets throughout Mizieb.

Over the past week, observers from BirdLife Malta and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) recorded shots fired at a Honey Buzzard and three Marsh Harriers in Mizieb, and CABS also found a freshly shot Nightjar.

Two CABS members were assaulted during the search. A UK citizen, Fiona Burrows, was attacked by two men who tried taking a dead bird from her during the search.

Clearly shaken, Ms Burrows said she was picking up the skeleton of a Falcon when two big men approached her, shouting at her and being very aggressive towards her.

“One of them started stamping on the bird’s skeleton while the other one grabbed me by the arm, shouting at me. I thought they were going to abduct me because their van was parked in the vicinity. I clung onto the bag in which I had put the dead bird and called for help. One of the other group members soon turned up and we took the men to see the people in charge.”

It was at that point that one of the men, who claimed to be an FKNK (hunters’ federation) official, punched CABS media officer Axel Hirschfeld in the face in the presence of police officers. Both volunteers are pressing charges against the aggressors.

Over the last week, illegal hunting has been recorded by teams from both organisations in at least 39 separate locations in Malta and Gozo.

Only yesterday morning, teams witnessed at least 12 protected birds being targeted by illegal hunters.

Since the start of the international conservation camps on 11 September, 68 incidents of protected birds that were shot at, and over 240 additional illegalities including shooting after the 3pm hunting ban and shooting in bird sanctuaries, have been recorded. Furthermore both organisations found five shot protected birds over the past week.

Yesterday’s finds in Mizieb mirror last year’s discovery of over 200 dead protected birds stashed in just a third of the woodland, a favoured roost site for migrant birds.

The birds were handed over to the police last September, and although the authorities had said they would conduct an investigation, no results have been disclosed and no one has been convicted of the crimes to date.

BirdLife Malta and CABS expressed their incredulity at the way the Mizieb case has been handled by the authorities.

The two organisations set up a sign yesterday, reading ‘Public right of way – Reclaim your countryside’, immediately adjacent to an FKNK sign that reads ‘Picnic area end here’ [sic].

BirdLife Malta campaigns coordinator Geoffrey Saliba said Mizieb is public land which a small group of people, without any legal agreement, have made their own.

BirdLife Malta and CABS demanded the immediate establishment of a dedicated wildlife crime unit as part of the Administrative Law Enforcement unit, and called for fines for killing of protected species to be increased significantly. Licences for repeat offenders should be permanently cancelled, without exception.

A detailed report, listing all illegal hunting and trapping offences recorded in Malta and Gozo during the international camps by both organisations will be put forward to the Office of the Prime Minister and the police.

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