CABS operation unveils 10 cases of illegal bird trapping

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter conducted an investigation to combat the 'ongoing illegal trapping of protected waders and other migratory birds in Malta'

In Gozo, yesterday, a finch trapper was fined 500 euros for illegally trapping finches during the closed season in spring (Photo: CABS)
In Gozo, yesterday, a finch trapper was fined 500 euros for illegally trapping finches during the closed season in spring (Photo: CABS)

While the European Court of Justice is expected to decide any moment about the future of finch trapping on Malta, poachers continue to trap protected bird species during the closed season, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said.

In the last six weeks, members of the organisation conducted an investigation to combat the ongoing illegal trapping of protected waders and other migratory birds in Malta. Despite the trapping season being closed, the teams discovered a total of 10 trapping sites, with active clap nets since the middle of August.

According to the German conservationist group, most of the sites were located in the south, with four large sites found in the fields around Zurrieq and Safi alone.

“Nearly all of them use illegal bird callers which sometimes can be heard over a distance of kilometers”, said CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows, adding that two trappers were caught red-handed by the ALE after CABS alerted them.

Two sets of clap nets and two illegal bird callers were seized as evidence.

CABS went on to say that two men are expected to be taken to court for illegal trapping of protected Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Dotterels.

The other 8 sites have been reported to the police with their exact locations, as well as photos of the nets.

According to CABS, its efforts have led to at least 21 successful prosecutions for illegal bird trapping in the last three years, with fines ranging from €500 to €7000 and a total of 16 trapping licenses revoked by the courts.

“These are only the cases we know about because our team members were summoned as witnesses by the magistrate”, CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said, adding that he has observed a considerable difference in the handling of cases between the law courts in Malta and Gozo.

“The chances of a trapper being acquitted or receiving a much reduced fine are more likely if the case is heard in Gozo”, he said.

Several cases have been acquitted by the court in Victoria, this year alone, despite CABS video footage “clearly showing the defendants operating the nets and using the live decoy birds in the closed season”.

“We have learned that some cases were acquitted because CABS members could not attend court. The court was informed via the lawyer that they were unable to attend, however the magistrate decided to hear the cases without the key witnesses and later acquitted the defendants”, said Hirschfeld.

Yesterday in Gozo court, a finch trapper was fined €500 for illegally trapping finches during the closed season in spring. The case was filmed and reported to the police by a CABS team monitoring the countryside near Qala, in March 2017.

The court also decided that the trapping and the hunting license of the defendant are suspended and his hunting weapons confiscated for two years. Three CABS members were summoned as witnesses and attended court from abroad, however none were asked to testify. 

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