Thursday, 30 September 2010

Talons on Illegal hunting: Greenhouse joins Birdlife at Raptor Camp

On Saturday the 18th of September, I joined Greenhouse on an afternoon’s experience at Birdlife’s Raptor Camp. Raptor camp takes place twice a year during the migratory seasons where birds fly from Europe to Africa for the winter and back to Europe in spring. Its aim is to keep track of raptors and other migratory birds flying over Malta and discouraging and reporting and illegal hunting and trapping.

Most of the volunteers are foreigners who fly to Malta each year to help out...and it’s no easy business. Volunteers are split into groups of four, each is assigned a location in Malta in which there is a dense population of hunters and where they spend hours keeping watch, starting as early as 5am.

Before we left for the afternoon watch, Geoffrey Saliba, the project’s campaigns manager , took us to one of their rooms where they had a dead Grey Heron which they had collected that morning.

“This is what we’re fighting.”

I was sent to a spot at Tal-Virtu where we spent from 3pm to 8pm. I was amazed at the sheer number of raptors that actually pass over Malta to take shelter before completing their journey to Africa. We spotted around 90 Honey buzzards, a few Marsh Harriers and heard a good deal of Bee-Eaters. Large numbers of Marsh Harriers were seen in other sites on the Island.

There are 32 birds that can be legally hunted. During this time of year, hunting is only legal till 3pm. This is because after this time, raptors start flying low in an attempt to find a suitable place to roost, making them extremely vulnerable. Despite the laws, illegal hunting persists and the number of cases is alarming. Just recently the discovery of 80 Raptors buried under stones in Mizieb shows that little has changed from a year ago where 200 birds were found in the same conditions.

The main problem is the attitude that a handful of hunters take towards entities such as Birdlife, CABS and the ALE. Last Saturday I got shouted at by a hunter for standing too close to the concrete leading to his land. In the worst cases volunteers have been shouted at, some spat at and a few have even been beaten up. There is no doubt that the tension is high between hunters and conservationists, but unless there’s a radical change in mentality or proper enforcement of the law the chances of bringing illegal hunting to a stand-still seem to be slim.

However, the lack of local volunteers is upsetting. Birdlife Malta strives to understand and protect wild birds while conserving their habitat with great dedication and enthusiasm. I’d like to take this opportunity to encourage as many people to actively help in these local conservation projects. More information regarding illegal hunting and daily Raptor Camp updates can be found on

This is a video taken by Anthony Debono, one of the members who attended the Raptor Camp.

No comments:

Post a Comment