RSPB Malta bird massacre condemned


This page contains 13 reader comments. Click here to view (latest Fri 25/09/09 12:27).

A grisly discovery of the carcases of 137 protected birds, such as Marsh Harriers and herons, has been made during a joint operation on Malta involving 40 birdwatchers from BirdLife Malta — the RSPB's partner in the islands — and the German-based Campaign Against Bird Slaughter.

Dr Andre Raine and Garry Clewley with a freshly killed Honey Buzzard (Photo: Louise Greenwood/BirdLife Malta)

Over the weekend, the remains of the birds were found concealed among stones and rubbish in Mizieb, an area frequented by scores of hunters in the north of the main island. The haul, so far, includes: 34 Marsh Harriers; 17 Honey Buzzards; 19 falcons, including Kestrel and Hobby; 29 herons; and 33 skeletons of birds of prey, the identity of which are still being determined. Some of the birds discovered were newly killed, while others were the remains of birds killed weeks or months earlier.

The RSPB joins the organisations' call for a Maltese government enquiry and condemnation into this 'shocking discovery'. The incident is one of the largest single hauls of dead protected birds yet recovered in Malta. BirdLife Malta is highly concerned at the relative lack of government and police action on this outrageous discovery. Joseph Mangion is the President of BirdLife Malta. Speaking about the incident he said: "We demand from the government that they stop claiming that illegal hunting is under control and instead start treating this international conservation problem as a political priority."

Tim Stowe is the RSPB's International Director. He said: "The discovery of these corpses is further proof of the scale of illegal hunting in Malta, which is an international scandal. The Maltese government must recognise that these acts bring shame on Malta as well as posing a direct threat to many of Europe's protected bird species. The illegal hunting of protected birds can have no place in a modern Europe."

The recovery of these dead birds was a joint operation between BirdLife Malta and the Campaign Against Bird Slaughter: both organisations have been organising separate bird protection and migration observation camps in Malta this autumn. Autumn is a key bird migration period in Malta as many birds fly over the islands from Europe en route to their African wintering grounds. Volunteers from both organisations have reported protected birds being targeted in several areas in the island, including the Mizieb woodland.

"What we have been witnessing over the last two days, together with the shocking finding in Mizieb, is a sad reflection of the true scale of illegal hunting in Malta. What we have uncovered is only the tip of the iceberg, as the scope and range of our teams is limited and we can therefore only cover a small geographical area of the Maltese islands," said Axel Hirschfeld, CABS press officer.

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (13)

With 350 Birds having to be killed on many of the Red Grouse moor each year to sustain a bag {figures from the gamekeepers themselves} Malta is a little island in a great big sea of destruction. Sadly public relations comes before stopping this killing in the UK but of course with no Red Grouse moors on Malta they can be punished via the EU.
   john miles, 21/09/09 15:28Report inappropriate post Report 
That may be a little controversial John! Some may not like the shooting of Red Grouse or the killing of any other animal for sport or consumption for that matter but that's an ethical issue. There is no suggestion that Grouse populations are declining. The indiscriminate and unregulated slaughter of birds in Malta, many of them threatened species, is another matter altogether and should in no way be confused.
   roger wilkinson, 21/09/09 17:34Report inappropriate post Report 
Totally agree with Roger here, it is very important that perfectly legal and responsible shooting in this country is in no way confused with this sort of unacceptable behaviour.
   Adam Williams, 21/09/09 22:51Report inappropriate post Report 
So it all right to kill Birds of Prey in Britain via responsible shooting but not in Malta!! As you probable know the Maltese kill even more protected birds in Egypt where radio tracked Pallid Harriers pass through! Malta needs wildlife tourism so they can see what this wildlife is worth to them not a boycott. And may be 'Visit Malta' should be on the shirts of Sheffield Wednesday not Sheffield United so at least the 'Owls' could be protected!
   john miles, 22/09/09 08:22Report inappropriate post Report 
Where did anybody say it was okay to kill birds of prey in this country? I said that LEGAL and responsible shooting as carried out by the vast majority in this country should not be confused with what is happening in Malta nor should it be confused with ILLEGAL killing of birds of prey which is carried out by a small minority in this country.
   Adam Williams, 22/09/09 12:29Report inappropriate post Report 
Adam & Roger & entirely right! Without shooting sadly many/most of the Grouse moors would disappear under other forms of Agriculture/forestry so no more Grouse..what is entirely wrong is the culling of Harriers etc; i'm not certain the Maltese hunters care much about tourism thou';
   Adrian, 22/09/09 12:41Report inappropriate post Report 
I'm trying to come to terms with Johns comment of "So it all right to kill Birds of Prey in Britain via responsible shooting but not in Malta!!" Since when was the Maltese situation 'responsible'? Unfortunately of course we are in no position to be able to cast the first stone - ask any Ruddy Duck.
   SteveH, 22/09/09 18:41Report inappropriate post Report 
I think the Ruddy Duck situation was a bit different. That was to help an endangered species not harming them like what happens in Malta.Culling a species that isnt endangered and was'nt supposed to be here anyway to help protect the White Headed Duck seems fairly reasonable.
   Adam Williams, 22/09/09 19:24Report inappropriate post Report 
I'd agree Adam but for the fact that the Spanish WHDuck population was saved from extinction by introductions into Spain "when the indigenous white-headed population was just one more winter's hunting season away from extinction." Sorry - but Steves right http://www.animalaid.org.uk/h/n/NEWS/news_wildlife/ALL/921//
   Dave Greene, 22/09/09 23:08Report inappropriate post Report 
surely the answer was to send the Maltese shooters to Spain to hunt ONLY Ruddies leaving these delightful stiffies alone here to grace our reservoirs?!!
   Adrian, 23/09/09 08:59Report inappropriate post Report 
Thats a fair point Dave. I was'nt aware that was what happened,if its true though that hunting was to blame then that just another example of how irresponsible hunting can be in other countries compared to here.Thats a situation that wouldnt happen here,yes people will point to illegal killing of birds of prey and unfortunatley it does happen but only by a very small number of people involved in shooting.A situation like that in spain where its the species thats legally hunted thats endangered and close to extinction doesnt happen there are species that are in steep decline such as Grey Partridge,Black Grouse,snipe etc. It isnt shooting thats to blame infact its probably because of shooting and the land management that goes with it that there are still as many as there are and in cases like capercaillie where there was a serious problem not caused by shooting then shooting people imposed a volantry ban on themselves then they were eventually removed from the quarry list.
   Adam Williams, 23/09/09 09:06Report inappropriate post Report 
I do think Malta is in such a vulnurable position, I don't know but I would guess that Tourism is a major player in the islands economy therefore surely this is a weak spot that can be used to target the hunters. If a major campaign was raised to encourage people to boycott holidays in Malta then real pressure would start to be exerted on the Maltese government?
   Antony Disley, 23/09/09 12:52Report inappropriate post Report 
You really have to go to Malta to experience the full horror of it and realise that the other issues raised above pale into insignificance. Yes, they have to be dealt with some time but let's get the Maltese carnage out of the way first. I've posted a series of articles to my blog (http://pokerbird.blogspot.com/) about what I saw if you'd care for more background.
   Andy Gibb, 25/09/09 12:27Report inappropriate post Report 

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