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Spoonbill Shooting

Maltese Bring More Shame on Themselves?

Less than 4 months away from accession to the European Union the Maltese hunters seem determined to defend their title as the most prolific slaughterers of protected species in Europe. A foretaste of this was the illegal killing of 2 Spoonbills on 10 January 2004. A full report from the Times of Malta is cited below?

Despite appeals by many conservation organisations to the EU Commissioners to put pressure on the Maltese Government to enforce existing bird protection laws, the message from Brussels continues to be wait until after accession then …perhaps. In the meantime we can expect that thousands of Raptors and other migratory species will once again fail to run the gauntlet of the illegal Spring Shooting Jamboree on the Maltese islands.It remains for conservationist and bird lovers everywhere to continue to protest and campaign against this awful slaughter of our migratory and protected species. After Malta`s official to the EU on 1 May this year, and the island`s elections to the European parliament in June, we should petition the European Union to take effective, and if necessary punitive action against the Maltese Government if they fail to fulfil their obligations. There is a lot of latent support among MEPs and, with luck, the Maltese Greens will celebrate their first-ever election success with a seat in the European Parliament. Send a one liner, quoting this appalling case to the EU Environment and Enlargement Commissioners margot.wallstrom@cec.eu.int and gunter.verheugen@cec.eu.int and, if you have time, copy to info@proact-campaigns.net (for evaluation purposes).

Now to the sad details:

Bird lovers were outraged yesterday on discovering that two relatively rare spoonbills were killed and removed from the Ghadira Nature Reserve overnight.The two birds had slept at the reserve. We last saw them there at dusk. In the morning what we found were bloodstained feathers BirdLife Malta president Joseph Mangion said. He said unknown persons had gained access to the reserve by cutting through a boundary wall and crossing a ditch. Disturbed vegetation and footprints were noted. A metal frame with a plank on it was used to cross the ditch. Spoonbills are an endangered species which are closely monitored in Europe. There has been some success in raising population numbers in some countries, which may explain why a number of them were seen in Malta over the past few years. A flock of 17 was seen last April.

Mr Mangion said three spoonbills were spotted at Ghadira last Sunday. They flew out to sea and only two returned. Over the week there were reports of spoonbills having been shot around Malta. By Tuesday there was a lot of activity by hunters around the nature reserve and we informed the police, Mr Mangion said. The press were invited to the reserve on Wednesday and the beautiful birds were featured by the media. Their pictures are now the only thing that remain, Mr Mangion said. The nature reserve is guarded by a watchman at night and Mr Mangion said it was too early to say what had happened.In its statement BirdLife Malta observed that the killing occurred barely two years after the infamous massacre of swans in St Thomas Bay on January 20, 2002, and adds to the now regular series of illegal massacres occurring throughout the year. BirdLife Malta notes that Maltese hunters have once again failed the test and showed that they have no respect for the laws. This latest killing also shows that much stricter penalties and more enforcement officers within the ALE are needed to serve as a deterrent against illegal hunting. BirdLife Malta reiterates its calls for a stop to hunting and trapping in spring. The society said another spoonbill was killed in a similar incident at Salina last May and most of the spoonbills of the 17 that had settled in Ghadira in April were also decimated. One of these was carrying a ring that was placed on its leg when still in its nest nine years previously in the famous Donana reserve in Spain.The spoonbill (Maltese paletta, scientific name Platalea leucorodia) is a white, heron-like bird about 85cm long with a wingspan of about 1.2 metres. It derives its name from its characteristic long black spoon-shaped bill. It inhabits lowland coastal wetlands and nests colonially in reedbeds, bushes or trees. Its diet consists of small fish, insects and other small aquatic animals. It is a migratory bird and is protected under the EU Birds Directive. The Ministry of Rural Affairs and the Environment condemned the killing of the birds, describing the incident as shameful. The Ministry augured that those responsible would be caught and appealed to hunters` associations and others who may have information to come forward.

This article from Times of Malta, Sunday 11th January 2004 may also be viewed at http://www.timesofmalta.com/core/article.php?id=144180

4th July 2014