A flock of Greater Flamingos that have been circling around the coast of Malta has been slowly depleted during yesterday, BirdLife said. While some juveniles were exhausted and landed close to the people, others were shot at, with one witnessed being brought down in the area known as Munxar, limits of Marsaskala. Another badly injured one was collected from Marsaxlokk and taken to the government vet as can be seen in this video. The vet confirmed it had been illegally shot, BirdLife said.
Other stranded juvenile flamingos were collected and taken to the vet. One was collected by ERA officials from Daħlet Qorrot in Gozo while another one was collected earlier on by BirdLife Malta from Għadira Bay. This morning another one was collected from Tas-Safra by Kaċċaturi San Ubertu (KSU) and was also handed over to BirdLife Malta.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana explained in a video yesterday that the state of enforcement and regulations in the country has been weakened allowing some hunters to target protected birds all year round. The serious problem with protecting our birds comes from the watering down of legislation and the conversion of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit (WBRU) into a directorate for protecting the rights of hunters. There is a clear policy to favour hunting and a clear political direction to confront EU infringement procedures on trapping.
“The killing of flamingos, a species for which BirdLife Malta is working to adapt Salina Nature Reserve as an ideal, and possibly breeding, habitat is a sacrilege. It also underpins the fact that the Maltese Government is out of sync with a progressive and modern approach to environmental protection. This malaise has gone on for far too long. BirdLife Malta calls on Prime Minister Joseph Muscat to address this situation with constructive and visible actions. The first step should be the setting up of a wildlife crime unit which is run by people who have environmental protection as their first priority.”
Conservation Manager Nicholas Barbara, who collected the injured bird from Marsaxlokk, said that the state of illegalities in the country is worsening and seeing the Government having a nonchalant attitude can only mean that the situation will get worse.
Whilst thanking the general public, BirdLife Malta insists that the responsibility of protecting birds lies solely on the Government and it cannot shy away from realising that it needs to take a clear stand once and for all. The Hon. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has over the years expressed his opinion that he wants to see better enforcement and better safeguarding of birds and had promised zero tolerance in this regard. It is high time he puts his words into action.
Over the past 24 hours BirdLife Malta has also retrieved another protected bird which, following a diagnosis by the government vet, has also been confirmed illegally shot. The Marsh Harrier, which had lead pellets in its wing and tail, was recovered by police on Monday from the Gianpula area.
All this is happening during the closed season, just as autumn bird migration has started picking up, and a few days before the start of this year’s autumn hunting season which will open on 1st September and will see over 10,000 hunters start off a five-month hunting season running until 31st January of next year. In the current state of affairs flamingos, storks, herons and other majestic birds such as birds of prey migrating through Malta are all expected to be targeted.