The Malta Independent 3 December 2021, Friday

CABS reports lead to confiscation of 145 wild finches, slams ‘incompetence’ of regulatory body

Tuesday, 26 October 2021, 11:31 Last update: about 2 months ago

Participants of the government´s "dubious" finch trapping research project are poaching thousands of wild birds with impunity while the regulatory authority - the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) - is "paralysed by the blatant political backing, allowing this to happen," the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said in a statement.

The bird protection NGO spoke of "the systematic incompetence" it has observed within the WBRU when helping police officers to do their job in the field.


"Most officers still do not have any maps, tablets, nothing which would enable them to distinguish between legal and illegal sites", CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said, adding that the trapping season was opened on 20 October without publishing the GPS-data of the registered sites three days before the season , "which is obligatory according to the new framework legislation released on the same day."

"Police and the public were unaware of rules until that point", Burrows continued.

"To make matters worse, the 'enforcement hotline' from the WBRU - like the whole concept of the so-called study - seems to exist only on paper."

"We tried to reach them at least 12 times at various times of the day and from different numbers, but nobody replied", CABS-Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld stated. He continued that since the beginning of the season last Friday, CABS have already identified more than 110 active finch trapping sites which are not listed in the GPS data of permitted sites published by the WBRU on 20th October.

However, in recent days, inspections with the police revealed that half of all bird trappers were being granted a "special permit" from the WBRU, despite their trapping sites not being listed in the public database.

"We understand that a huge number of sites are either missing or their locations have been incorrectly plotted by up to 70 metres", Fiona Burrows states, concluding that with wrong data, enforcement officers will be "incapacitated" and unable to validate targeted checks or focus on poachers who take advantage of the enforcement chaos.

Despite these difficult conditions, CABS and members of the Environment Protection Unit (EPU) within the police force were able to catch several bird poachers over the weekend, the CABS statement read.

"Among them were two participants of the government´s study who were caught trapping with more than the permitted number of clap-nets in Dingli. The police dismantled the traps, confiscated all nets and more than 50 live finches. Both poachers were identified and will be investigated for trapping infringements. Three large clap nets were also found inside the Mizieb woodland. EPU were called and removed the illegal traps, the poacher managed to escape. On Monday, a CABS team in Gozo lead the police to 4 trapping sites in Marsalforn and Xewkija which turned out to be without any permit and were therefore also dismantled."

CABS also reported that illegal trapping was already rampant in the weeks before the official opening of the season, with a total of 27 illegal sites being shut down and more than 90 birds confiscated following CABS´ reports alone. "One of them resulted in the arrest of a man who had set up his clap-net on a narrow green strip in the middle of the government quarter of the capital Valletta - just 250 metres from the headquarters of the Maltese police! A pair of large clap-nets and 12 live decoy birds, including siskins, linnets and hawfinches were confiscated and later released."



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