The Malta Independent 2 December 2023, Saturday
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25 million birds killed per year in the Mediterranean

Helena Grech Saturday, 5 September 2015, 08:00 Last update: about 9 years ago

A scientific review by the BirdLife Partnership was presented last week, revealing an estimate of a staggering 25 million birds illegally killed per year in the Mediterranean. This review is the first of its kind, as it has attempted to quantify the scale and scope of illegal bird killing across the region. This review comes as Malta’s autumn hunting season is set to start today.

40 different species of migratory songbird are fast declining due to the illegal hunting that is prevalent across the Mediterranean. Certain species are declining so rapidly that they are heading for collapse. 

Tough laws throughout Mediterranean countries have persistently and consistently been ignored, with flagrant abuse occurring on a regular basis.

Countries in the region have their own ways for catching, trapping and killing migratory birds flying to and from Europe. The Maltese cover whole trees in nylon and the Cypriots smear branches in glue in order to prevent birds from flying. The Egyptians cover their beaches with fine nets that can stretch miles across the Nile delta, for the purposes of catching birds that come too close. The French are accustomed to setting metal traps for small birds.

The research suggested that the most dangerous countries for migratory birds to fly over are that of Italy and Egypt, estimating that together they are responsible for 47.6% of the birds killed annually in the region. It was found that Malta had the highest average estimate of birds killed illegally per km², followed by Cyprus and Lebanon.

It has been estimated that the mean number of birds killed illegally in Malta each year is 108,000, with a minimum number of 5,800 and a maximum of 211,000.

According to a report that was drawn from the scientific review, the most threatening area for migratory birds to fly through was found to be Famagusta of Cyprus. It was reported that nearly 700,000 birds are illegally killed in the Famagusta area of Cyprus, particularly close to the British Dhekelia military base, where the Military of Defence has made an agreement that it would uproot illegally planted trees, which are used by hunters as a means of cover, as well as to lure birds.

The bird that is killed the most frequently in the Mediterranean is the chaffinch, with an estimation of 2.9 million killed per year. The chaffinch is closely followed by the blackcap (1.8m per year), quail (1.6m per year) and song thrush (1.2m per year). Due to species being targeted, decline has happened very rapidly, such as the case with the European turtle dove. The population of European turtle dove has had a decline of 30% all over Europe, and in some countries has declined by 90%. Species such as the pallid harrier and the Egyptian vulture are on the European red list, meaning that any further killings can seriously affect the future of the species.

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