The Malta Independent 14 October 2019, Monday

Cospicua pigeon air rifle culling exercise reminiscent of the Wild West - BirdLife

Rachel Attard Friday, 12 February 2016, 11:42 Last update: about 5 years ago

The pigeon culling exercise that took place last Monday in Cospicua is similar to “what you see in the Wild West films,” Birldlife CEO Mark Sultana told The Malta Independent.

“Although we understand that there should be a control system in place so that there will be no pigeon infestation, we believe other, better methods should be adopted.” He added that “this is cruelty and it justifies the thrill to shoot and kill birds certain people experience.”

Mr Sultana was contacted by The Malta Independent after reports posted on the social media that pigeons who nest in the vicinity of the Rialto Theatre were culled with the use of air-guns. Over the past year two abandoned buildings, one in Triq il-Pellegrinag and the other in Triq l-Oratorju, became a nesting ground for pigeons, and many residents in the nearby surroundings suffered the consequences, with some also reporting skin conditions and other illnesses.

The Birdlife CEO said that when such an activity such as Monday’s culling exercise takes place in an urban area the safety of the public needs to be considered.  He added studies should be carried out before so as to establish the least traumatic method to be used to eliminate the nuisance.

Animal Welfare Commissioner against air gun culling

Animal Welfare Commissioner Emanuel Buhagiar said that “personally I am against this type of method. I would prefer if these birds are captured in cages, treated and neutered chemically and then released.” One of the major problems that these birds have is that they breed regularly and when they are stray, they carry a lot of diseases. Mr Buhagiar however added that the culling exercise gives the bird a painless death because the type of ammunition used is flat and made of lead and when it hits the bird’s head it dies immediately.

Mr Buhagiar said that abroad various methods are used, including giving the pigeons lethal medicine in their food, but the chemically neutering method is very expensive and has little or no effect. The Commissioner said that apart from the diseases that the birds spread through their droppings, this also causes a lot of damage especially to monuments and buildings.

Cospicua Major Alison Zerafa Civelli told this newsroom that “I am completely against animal cruelty but the health of the residents is also important to me.” She said that the local council had received a number of complaints from the residents and these complaints were passed on to the Department of Health. The council later received a letter from the health department saying that the case was being investigated and the same department had asked the council to provide it with police assistance for the culling exercise to go ahead.

Ms Zerafa Civelli said that the three men who took part in the culling exercise were employees of the Department of Agriculture. “All I can say is that the residents are satisfied because the situation was becoming unbearable.”

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