The international concern regarding illegal hunting in Malta is no coincidence. Hunters and their supporters continuously claim it isn’t a big issue, of course protecting their own interests. Witnessing numerous protected birds shot down and targeted this autumn is personally a reminder of the grim situation we’re in, even in 2013.
Such barbaric acts are disgusting and shameful, but at the same time unsurprising to me. Watching over birds is the only way to possibly deter such illegalities. Monitoring bird migration and illegal hunting in Malta and Gozo, the annual Raptor Camp organised by BirdLife Malta has become of utmost importance locally. It combines local and international efforts to deter and bring to light illegal shooting at migrating birds, particularly birds of prey. I’ve faced the reality of widespread illegal hunting before, and joining the camp is the best way I contribute to the safeguarding of wild birds, especially during the peak weeks of migration. This camp is set up to watch over birds migrating during the last two weeks of September.
Surveillance is carried out to properly report any illegal incidents to the police. Authorities do respond, more often than not. This rarely translates into justice though. The correspondence between hunters seems to be organised well, as they almost always get away without a trace. The constant mobile phone calls hunters exchange is phenomenal. Why do they worry if they only shoot at Turtle Doves and Quail? Only the so called poachers practice illegal hunting, right?
I truly do enjoy watching bird migration locally, but simultaneously seeing protected birds shot at is tragic. It would be even more disastrous for migrating birds without the existence of such camps.
I’m sure you’ve heard about the recent massacre of at least a dozen eagles in Malta and Gozo. It is a clear sign that illegal hunting is far from a rare occurrence, yet the hunters’ lobby has said it was an ‘isolated incident’. The pity is that only especially elegant, large or rare massacred birds make the headlines. Protected bird species include most passerines we get on migration, and these are unfortunately commonly targeted too. I’ve witnessed this reality an unhealthy number of times.
The possibility of a referendum against spring hunting would provide improvements. It would be an important step forward if spring hunting is eradicated, and this can only be achieved by permanently rendering it illegal. It’s disgraceful that unlike most European countries we actually allow hunting of a few species in spring, affecting their populations. Killing birds as they would be returning to their breeding grounds (in some cases our islands) is just irrational. Signing the petition would help bring about change in the right direction.
However, the sad truth is that illegal hunting is a true passion for some. It’s their blood sport and obsession. Contrary to what some are preaching, it’s not fleeting. Not yet.