BirdLife Malta has called for further increases in penalties for illegal hunting and greater enforcement against illegal collections of rare birds, after it released footage of illegal shots fired next to a roosting rare eagle earlier this morning. The Short-toed Eagle, which was first sighted on Sunday afternoon, and spent the past two days unscathed during the closed hunting season, came down yesterday evening to rest on rocks along the Dwejra Lines, before settling in nearby trees to roost.
BirdLife Malta organised a watch to safeguard the bird during the night. However, at 6.24am, 2 shots were fired from the area where the eagle was resting, and the bird has not been seen since. The ALE were immediately informed, and arrived at the scene to investigate shortly after,BirdLife Malta said.
Short-toed Eagles are rare visitors to Malta, and while such a sighting is a delight for birdwatchers, the species is highly sought after for illegal taxidermy collections.
Nicholas Barbara BirdLife Malta Conservation Manager said, “over the past days, we’ve had a nice spectacle of some rare birds appearing over Malta, some of which roosted on the island and left safely the following morning. Sightings included a Red Kite, a Common Buzzard and at least another 4 Short-toed Eagles. The rarity and majesty of these species give the bird an extremely high value on the black market for illegal taxidermy, making it highly demanded and at great risk.”
BirdLife Malta has called for even stronger penalties in the light of this incident. Mr Barbara added, “clearly the €5,000 fine and revocation of a hunting licence for life is not a strong enough deterrent for these criminals who have no fear of the law. We are therefore calling for fines to be increased to €15,000 and for custodial sentences to be imposed.”
BirdLife Malta is also calling for much stronger enforcement to lead to a greater prosecution of those keeping collections of stuffed birds.
Mr Barbara added, “the main driver for illegal killing of rare birds such as the Short-toed eagle is taxidermy, with such rarities featuring high on the wish-list of many collectors. Unfortunately a great number of collections have gone unchecked over the years, leaving hunters with a wish-list to continue adding these specimens in their private collections.”
He stated, “it is high time for the Government authorities to clamp on this loophole once and for all to cut this demand, along with a further increase in penalties.”
In reaction to the targeting of the Short-toed Eagle, the League Against Cruel Sports, who is currently supporting BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp and some of the witnesses of this morning’s incident, has announced it is offering a €2,000 reward for anyone providing evidence that leads of a conviction of anyone supplying illegally shot birds for taxidermy.
Mr Joe Duckworth, Chief Executive of the League Against Cruel Sports said, “We must target the people who are causing illegal hunters to disregard the law and take such huge risks to kill these birds.”
“We have therefore offered a €2,000 reward to the first person that can provide evidence that leads to a conviction of someone illegally supplying shot birds for the black market in taxidermy. An example needs to be made and we are happy to support the authorities and BirdLife Malta in this way,” Duckworth said.
With the arrival of other rare European birds expected over the coming days, BirdLife Malta is appealing to the public report sightings on 2134 7646. BirdLife are also asking for anyone with information on this morning’s incident to contact police on 119. BirdLife Malta reminded that during the closed hunting season until the 10th October, all incidents of shooting should be reported to the police.
Video Shown below is detailing rare birds and this morning’s incident.