The Malta Independent 28 January 2020, Tuesday

Three more eagles confirmed shot as BirdLife prepares to send injured bird to Sicily

Malta Independent Friday, 25 October 2013, 17:53 Last update: about 7 years ago

This morning two more eagles, a Booted Eagle and a Short-toed Eagle, were added to the 12 already known to have been killed since more than 50 of the rare protected birds of prey were first seen on Wednesday afternoon. They join another injured Booted Eagle recovered yesterday after being shot, but has miraculously survived and is being sent to Sicily for rehabilitation.

BirdLife Malta volunteers witnessed the shooting down of the Booted Eagle at Buskett this morning, catching the incident on camera and filming as the shooter ran into the field where the shot bird fell, picking it up, stuffing it inside his shirt with what appeared to be a second large bird of prey and running off before the police arrived at the scene.

The second bird, a Short-toed Eagle, was found near Rabat by a member of public, injured but alive. Unfortunately it died soon after it was found.

The number of eagles confirmed shot over the last three days now totals 15, which doesn’t include those seen flying with injuries or the numerous reported but unverified incidents witnessed by members of public around Malta and Gozo.

“One wonders just how many “isolated incidents” it takes before the government and hunting associations will publicly accept that these incidents are part of a much wider problem, namely the endemic and widespread killing of rare and protected birds by a significant number of Maltese hunters for whom the law means absolutely nothing,” commented Steve Micklewright, BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director, referring to independent statements made by the FKNK and Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Rights, Roderick Galdes, in response to the events of recent days.

“After yesterday’s news of the increased penalties for people found guilty of these kinds of offences we were astonished to read Parliamentary Secretary Galdes’ statement that illegal hunting is under control,” Mr Micklewright continued. “If this is what things are like when they are under control, I’d hate to see things out of control.”

“If Mr Galdes doesn’t think the slaughter of protected birds of prey on the scale we have seen in the last three days is justification enough for suspending the hunting season, what would be?” Micklewright asked. “It is clear that Secretary Galdes’ priority is not the protection of birds or the eradication of illegal hunting, but the fulfilment of the government’s pre-election promises to hunters that their pastime would be safeguarded whatever the cost.”

There was, however, one piece of good news today. One shot Booted Eagle survived its injuries to be found by a member of public who handed the bird to BirdLife. Veterinary examination showed this was not the first time the bird had been shot, an x-ray revealing previously sustained injuries. Miraculously it escaped serious injury on both occasions and has now been cleared for transport to a wildlife rehabilitation centre in Sicily, where it will have a chance to recover before being released back into the wild.

“This is maybe the only positive incident to have occurred in all of this,” said Mr Micklewright, “but it is scant consolation for the many other birds which have died at the hands of Maltese hunters this week.”

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