Malta poacher sentenced for killing northern lapwing

This is a video from the Netherlands about a northern lapwing and its chicks.

From the Times of Malta:

Thursday, April 16, 2015, 14:55 by Matthew Xuereb, Caroline Muscat

Hunter sentenced to three months in jail – ‘did not know’ that lapwing cannot be hunted in spring

Offender has pending case of attempted murder

Updated 6.08pm – Shaun Demicoli, 37 of Birzebbuga was sentenced to three months imprisonment and had his shotgun confiscated this afternoon after he admitted to shooting and injuring a lapwing bird early this morning. He also admitted breaching bail conditions imposed in 2011 and last year and relapsing. His pending cases include a charge of attempted murder of a Tunisian man.

Wearing a bus driver’s uniform, Mr Demicoli told the court that he did not know that that kind of bird could not be hunted in spring.

Mr Demicoli also had his hunter’s licence suspended for three years and was fined €200 for breaching the bail conditions. The court recommended that he should not lose his job, which he was given only recently.

He said he would appeal and walked out of court – the sentence only comes into force once the appeal is decided.

Lawyer Jason Grima was defence counsel.

The bird, which was handed to the police, was shot between Birzebbuga and Hal Far even though, in terms of Spring hunting rules, only turtle dove and quail can be legally hunted, in limited numbers.

The FKNK hunters’ federation said the offender was reported by other hunters. He is not one of its members.

It appealed to other associations to suspend him if he is their member, and said abuse will not be tolerated.

The incident followed another yesterday when Stefan Micallef, 43, of Naxxar, shot a protected cuckoo in Manikata. He was filmed by BirdLife volunteers hiding the bird under a bush after shooting it.

Mr Micallef told a court that he mistook the cuckoo for a Turtle dove, but was fined €2,500 and had his licence suspended for three and a half years. His shotgun and ammunition were confiscated. The sentence came with a stern warning from the court that protected species must not be shot.

Following the referendum, won by those in favour of the spring hunting season, the Prime Minister Muscat stressed on Sunday that illegal hunting would not be tolerated.

The incident yesterday was followed by a backlash on social media calling on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to keep his word with #josephzommkellmtek and #closetheseason.

Earlier today, the Parliamentary Secretary for Animal Welfare, Roderick Galdes was asked to define what the prime minister meant when he said that the season would be closed if there was flagrant abuse.

He told the media there had to be major abuse such as happened last autumn when the season was closed.


Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU) in a statement said it commended the immediate action taken by the authorities in apprehending and sentencing the persons responsible of shooting protected birds.

“Today’s incident, where a protected bird was shot, exemplifies ignorance on the part of the perpetrator being unaware that spring hunting is only practiced on turtle dove and quail. It also highlights an ambiguity in our gun licensing system where a person with a criminal record involving aggression of a police officer and a pending case of attempted murder is allowed a gun licence.”

Birds still killed in Malta

This 2014 video is called Malta – Massacre on Migration (Episode 1).

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Friday 17th April 2015

PETER FROST is outraged that year in and year out millions of migratory birds fly over Malta where they are killed by the thousands to satisfy a primitive bloodlust.

Each spring millions of birds fly north across the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Britain and the rest of Europe after wintering in Africa.

The popular holiday island of Malta lies on one of these key bird-migration routes and every spring thousands of Maltese hunters point their guns skyward and blast these birds of passage out of the sky.

The hunters claim their targets are the traditional quarry of turtle doves and quail but in fact anything with feathers is considered fair game. Thousands of local hunters arrive in trucks with banners and slogans such as “If it flies it dies.”

Over the last three years nearly eighty species of bird, including 17 species of birds of prey, have been recorded shot illegally by these Maltese hunters. Thousands of protected species, including birds of prey or herons, are persecuted each year.

Of these 80 species there were four species of very serious global conservation concern. They are Audouin’s gull, pallid harrier, red-footed falcon and lesser kestrel. The latter is considered under threat of total worldwide extinction.

Another 40 species are of European conservation concern, including greater flamingo, crane, kingfisher and lesser spotted eagle. The spring bloodlust also slaughters owls, swifts, swallows, martins, cuckoos and nightingales.

Far from showing any guilt Maltese hunters have recently requested that the islands’ government further defy international bird protection laws and the European Court of Justice by permitting the spring shooting of quail and turtle dove in even larger numbers.

The spring hunting of quail and turtle doves is illegal all across Europe but the Maltese government allows hunters to ignore the ban under special agreements with the European courts. They claim the slaughter is a long established cultural tradition.

Last week a special referendum in Malta narrowly rejected a proposed ban on the slaughter. The result was very close with just 2,220 more votes deciding against the ban out of a total of over a quarter of a million votes cast. Malta’s population is just over half a million.

Hunters scored 50.4 per cent of the vote mostly thanks to a strong showing from the island of Gozo, perhaps the most pro-hunting part of Malta. So the hunting goes on and thousands of birds will die this spring in Malta.

Against this background of wild-bird slaughter in Malta let me introduce Karmenu Vella. This 64-year-old politician is a long-serving member of Malta’s government, which has overseen and approved the widespread slaughter of birdlife on the island — including many endangered species.

Amazingly Vella took up last November his new job European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

Vella being put in charge of the European commission’s environment portfolio, which has specific responsibility for birdlife and its habitats, has horrified green groups, campaigners and wildlife protection organisations. It certainly terrifies me.

Many feel that Vella’s appointment is part of the newly elected commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s plan to weaken the powers of Europe’s environment directorate and that Vella has been selected specifically to implement these changes.

Other parts of Europe also have their illegal bird hunting too although tighter legislation and more enlightened environmental thinking have reduced, and are reducing, its impact.

As well as Malta hunters in parts of Spain and much of Italy still shoot and kill protected birds.

One of the worst offenders is Cyprus where around 10 million songbirds a year are shot, netted or limed to make a traditional Cypriot dish. The birds are often either pickled or poached for an island delicacy called ambekopoulia.

The dish is expensive and illegal. It can still be found in many traditional restaurants. One restaurant owner with ambelopoulia on his menu explains its popularity by likening it to Viagra.

The Leaving is Living campaign awards enforcement agencies for fighting the illegal killing of birds in the Mediterranean. NGOs working side by side with police, responsible hunters and volunteers are making a difference, but the battle must continue to make the illegal killing of birds a thing of the past: here.

Saving Mediterranean seabirds

This video is called Birds of Lesvos, Greece.

From BirdLife:

BirdLife Partners working across the Mediterranean to protect seabirds

By Elodie Cantaloube, Fri, 20/02/2015 – 15:07

Seabird and marine conservation experts are gathering this week in Hammamet, Tunisia to discuss the current knowledge of seabirds and the key threats they are facing.

BirdLife is represented at the workshop by its Partners within the region, including Amis des Oiseaux- BirdLife in Tunisia, and BirdLife Morocco (GREPOM) and from its European Partners SEO/BirdLife in Spain, BirdLife Malta and the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) in Greece. This workshop, organised by the Regional Activity Centre for Specially Protected Areas (RAC/SPA) and MedMaravis, provides an excellent opportunity for experts across the Mediterranean, to share their experiences tackling seabird conservation.

Marguerite Tarzia, BirdLife’s European Marine Conservation Officer said ‘‘Mediterranean Seabirds do truly face pan-Mediterranean threats, such as overfishing, bycatch, invasive predators, habitat destruction because of ill-planning and marine pollution. International meetings such as this one are the most effective way to collaborate on protecting this incredibly rich sea.’’ As a key follow up to this meeting, BirdLife in conjunction with BirdLife Malta will hold another International workshop on Mediterranean Seabird Conservation on the 23rd-27th November, which will focus on protecting seabirds across National boundaries and international waters of the Mediterranean and will examine the key threats and the most effective routes and mechanisms for protection.

BirdLife’s knowledge of and experience with seabirds is vital to effectively tackle conservation at a regional scale. Dr Benjamin Metzger, Head of Research at BirdLife Malta said, “We have just finalised three years of intensive research in Malta tracking Yelkouan Shearwaters, and now looking into identifying those sites which need to be designated for the conservation of this species. The project will be overseeing the designation of the very first Marine Special Protected Area sites for Malta.”

In 2014, Spain announced the creation of 39 new Special Protection Areas at sea, based on SEO/BirdLife’s marine IBA inventory. This dramatically increased the amount of sea being protected in Spain. In relation to protecting the most threatened seabirds, such as the Balearic Shearwater however, there remains much to be done across the region. Pep Arcos, SEO/BirdLife Marine Coordinator, said “Despite recent research on the Balearic Shearwater suggesting a larger population than previously expected, but this does not reflect an increase, only a better assessment. On the contrary, this species is still suffering a sharp decline, and the mounting evidence points to bycatch as the main cause. If we do not tackle this threat, the species will be lost within the next century.”

The accidental capture of seabirds in fishing gear remains a key threat to many Mediterranean seabirds. BirdLife is working  to understand the scale of the problem and begin to look for solutions to prevent seabirds being killed. While some work has been done in small areas to quantify the problem, at a regional level little is known about how many birds are caught and there has never been a concerted approach to tackling this issue across the Mediterranean.

BirdLife has recently launched the European Seabird Task Force to begin to tackle seabird bycatch in the region in a consistent and collaborative manner. Bringing our international experience from the Albatross Task Force, which works in southern Africa and South America, our expert team of observers are working collaboratively with artisanal demersal longline fishermen in the Spanish Mediterranean to understand the problem and to find effective and appropriate solutions to reduce the numbers of seabirds killed. BirdLife aims to expand the scope of this work across the Mediterranean.

BirdLife’s Partners in the Mediterranean are extremely active in seabird conservation, and many of them will be presenting the results of their work this week. Check it out!

·         The Hellenic Society for Ornithology (HOS) are surveying seabirds in Greece following on from a recent LIFE project on seabirds, and working on management of protected marine sites and monitoring of seabirds at sensitive development sites such as Athens Airport.

·         BirdLife Slovenia (DOPPS) is completing an EU LIFE project (SI-MARINE) to identify marine sites for protection for the Mediterranean Shag.

·         In Italy, LIPU is identifying marine Important Bird Areas for breeding Scopoli’s Shearwaters.

·         In Croatia, BIOM is mapping wintering seabirds along its coastline to assist protected area designation and working on island restoration projects for the breeding Common Tern

·         SEO/BirdLife has been championing the conservation of the Critically Endangered Balearic Shearwater, with monitoring of colonies in the Balearic Islands as well as working on marine protected area management through the recent INDEMARES project. Currently, with BirdLife, they are implementing the Seabird Task Force-along a section of the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

·         BirdLife Malta is currently completing its EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project, which will see the identification of marine Important Bird Areas (marine IBAs) for the endemic Yelkouan Shearwater both within and beyond Malta’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

For further information on BirdLife’s seabird and marine work, and our upcoming workshop, visit our website or contact Marguerite Tarzia – the European Marine Conservation Officer.

Referendum about bird killing in Malta

This is a video about migratory birds on Malta.

From Wildlife Extra:

Historic decision to allow a referendum about hunting in Malta

Birdlife Malta has reported on the Maltese Constitutional Court’s recent positive decision to allow a referendum on spring hunting to take place.

Spring hunting accounts for the deaths of thousands of European migratory birds as they pass over the islands on their journey from Africa to their breeding grounds in northern Europe.

It has long been been the subject of mass campaigns, with supporters congregating from all over Europe to disrupt the hunters’ activities.

Anti-hunters have often being targetted by the hunting lobby with threats, verbal abuse and sometimes physical violence.

Birdlife Malta hails the referendum decision as a clear win for democracy and the campaiging of the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting which gathered the support and signatures of over 40,000 Maltese voters.

These ordinary Maltese people want to see change happen in the country and have pledged to make the Maltese environment better.

Romina Tolu, Campaign Coordinator for the Coalition says, “The process which has led to this decision by the courts was a particularly lengthy one, in which the hunting lobby tried to delay and mislead the people and the courts time and time again.

“It is now crystal clear that the legislation in question is not an EU treaty obligation and it is more than evident that the hunting lobby were clutching at loose strings from the start.”

Birdlife Malta believes that a decision such as this, which places power in the hands of the Maltese electorate to express themselves on an important national issue, is a positive opportunity for democracy in Malta.

It says this can see an end to concessions and backroom deals they say have been made between politicians and the hunting lobby at the cost of our migratory birds.

The Coalition now waits for the date of the referendum to be set by the President, following which it will launch its referendum campaign.

For more information visit Birdlife Malta.

Last weekend, 250,648 Maltese (75% of the population) headed to the polls to voice their opinion during a national referendum which proposed a ban on spring hunting. The majority took 50.9% of the votes and only won with an extremely narrow margin of 2.220 votes against the ban – allowing the contentious spring hunting season to continue as before: here.

Malta’s Secretive Seabirds

Life+ Malta Seabird Project

P1110684 Ed Drewitt and Ben Metzger admiring the views from the top of a Scopoli’s Shearwater colony

Standing on the golden limestone cliffs that were once the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, I paused to appreciate these sheer vertical forms on the island of Gozo in Malta in later summer this year. Metres away Birdlife Malta’s seabird scientists Dr Ben Metzger (head of seabird research) and Paulo Lago Barreiro were showing myself and Caroline Rance (also Birdlife Malta) how to look for signs of something very special living here. We could see some splashes of poo and a few white feathers; kneeling down on the hard, crusty rocks we peered with torches into a shallow burrow that had been scarped out beneath a huge boulder. At the end in a larger space a large ball of fluff shuffled and revealed a glistening eye and beak. This was a seabird, a baby in…

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Young stork killed in Malta by poacher

This video by the BBC’s Chris Packham is called Malta – Massacre on Migration (Episode 1).

From Wildlife Extra:

Tempers flare as Malta temporarily bans legal hunting season

Following the illegal shooting of a rare juvenile white stork, and the growing body of support for the campaign against illegal hunting, the Maltese government has decided to temporarily close the autumn legal hunting season until 10 October.

This move is to prevent illegal hunters using the legal hunting season as a cover to shoot endangered birds.

“The urge to target these protected species is something we continue seeing each and every time rare visitors, such as storks, grace these islands,” said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager.

The ringed stork was a migrant from a reintroduction project in Udine, Italy that was set up by the local community to help stork repopulate the area.

“This is a loss of great significance as we would have expected the bird to return to Fagagna in a few years to breed,” said Bruno Dentesani the project’s scientific ringer.

“This was its first migration, I’m very sad to hear of this news.”

The government’s decision was welcomed by Birdlife Malta, whose Executive Director, Steve Micklewright said: The government has repeatedly stated that it will not tolerate the illegal hunting of protected species of bird.”

“The announcement shows the government are prepared to take appropriate steps when hunters behave without any respect for the law, as they have done in recent days.”

However, hunters opposed to the government’s decision organised a protest march in Valletta which was attended by up to 200. Later on in the day at least 13 volunteer birdwatchers were then attacked at Buskett as they watched birds coming in to the woodlands at Buskett to rest for the night.

It is believed one elderly man was attacked by about four hunters, his camera was stolen and he was punched in the face and suffered facial injuries. Another sustained a leg injury after he was hit by a rock thrown by a member of the group of hunters.

Geoffrey Saliba, BirdLife Malta President, said: “We understand that those that attacked our volunteers had joined in the demonstration in Valletta earlier in the day and it appears that the attack was planned at that illegal protest.

“No one has been arrested as a result of the attack, but we understand that the volunteers might be able to recognise some of their attackers.”

Read Chris Packham’s thoughts about Malta’s hunting season HERE.

Watch Chris Packham’s films about Malta HERE.