The Malta Independent, 27. January 2002
Damning evidence of BirdLife photos
BirdLife Malta yesterday released pictures of the hunters who allegedly illegally shot and killed eight swans one week ago. The incident, which has provoked outrage throughout the Maltese Islands, took place at St Thomas's Bay last Sunday.
BirdLife president Joseph Mangion explained this was not an isolated incident. BirdLife deals with hundreds of cases of birds killed illegally every year. However, the killing of the swans attracted much more media attention than usual.
In a statement BirdLife said these photographs had been released in order that the Maltese public may appreciate the swans beauty and realise the harm which illegal hunting is causing in our country.
The police also have copies of these photographs which were taken by a member of the public.
BirdLife Malta reiterates that such abuses of the law are commonplace in the Maltese Islands and it is about time that the authorities take effective and positive steps to stop this illegal massacre.
The organisation has been active in trying to protect Maltese bird life for 40 years and this week celebrated its anniversary with the publication of a book. The organisation has around 3,000 members, which is a sizeable number when the total population of Malta is considered.
BirdLife Malta highlighted four main areas where it believes more action is needed.
Firstly, it called for the Administrative Law Enforcement (ALE) unit to be upgraded to a special police force for the protection of nature.
"This force has to be given the necessary resources in terms of personnel and equipment to enable it to deal with illegal hunting activities among other environmental issues", said the BirdLife president.
"Also, the penalties for illegal hunting activities have to be increased considerably. As things stand today it is worth taking a risk to kill a protected bird. What force does the law have if the penalty for killing a swan that fetches Lm500 on the open market is equal to or less than Lm500? The penalties should be so high, that the mere thought of being inflicted with such a punishment will discourage even the most daring attempts to break the law", continued Mr Mangion.
The third point BirdLife want to see implemented is the tagging and recording of all individual specimens in stuffed bird collections so that they can be traced.
"The Environment Protection Department has already collected declarations of the specimens in stuffed bird collections. But we are aware that there are hunters who deliberately inflated their declarations to cover up for new birds killed", said Mr Mangion.
"And finally, the law does not permit the firing of more than three shots in a row. Nevertheless, a large number of shotguns are capable of firing more than five shots. This makes it impossible for a bird to escape. It is of the utmost importance that the government takes decisive action to bring such shotguns in line with the law by blocking the excess space in the magazine over and above the quantity permitted by the law", he concluded.
Encouraged by the overwhelming public concern over the shooting of the swans last week, BirdLife Malta is embarking on a membership campaign.
The organisation is also appealing to the public to report any instances of illegal hunting either to the ALE on 2123 5761 or directly to BirdLife Malta on 7925 5697 (dial swallows on a mobile phone).
Those who wish to join or learn more about the organisation can log on to www.birdlifemalta.org