Hunters shot down five protected birds, including a stork, in the span of 24 hours, according to reports.

A white stork, part of a flock of 10 that flew in from Italy and featured in a back-page picture on Times of Malta yesterday, was shot down early yesterday afternoon in Marsa.

Off-duty police officers heard shots and arrested a young man as he tried to run away from a field, the police said.

The man and dead bird were handed over to the Administrative Law Enforcement unit.

Earlier, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, Cabs, witnessed hunters killing a kestrel near Safi at around 7.35am and shooting a honey buzzard in Ħas-Saptan valley at around 8.15am.

A few minutes later, a grey heron was shot close to Bidni, Marsascala, at 8.23am, which was caught on video and relayed to the media.

The footage was shown to officers from the Administrative and Law Enforcement section who arrived 40 minutes after CABS alerted the police. The officers searched the area but did not find the dead bird or the hunter.

“The poacher would have had enough time to hide the bird or to leave the area with his illegal prey,” CABS spokesman Axel Hirschfeld said.

And on Monday afternoon, a CABS team saw a hunter kill a protected bee-eater in Gozo, then drive off and shout insults towards the birdwatchers when he realised he was being watched. CABS passed on footage to the police.

It will also inform the officers of the locations of 38 static bird caller installations used for hunting and trapping of quails, teals, song thrush and protected wader species.

Meanwhile, Birdlife has called on the public for support during its annual migration monitoring raptor camp.

The NGO is urging the public to get involved by reporting the targeting of protected species, any discovery of injured birds or any intimidation experienced in the countryside. Raptor Camp 2014 is boosted by volunteers from some seven countries.

“We are lucky to be joined by so many overseas volunteers for our camps, and while we have a small team of dedicated local volunteers, we would like to see more Maltese people getting involved in protecting their wildlife,” camp coordinator Christian Debono said. The camp will run until the end of September with the teams focusing on monitoring migration and deterring the illegal shooting of protected species. The autumn hunting season, which runs from September 1 until January 31, allows the hunting of 41 species.

Birdlife said it has already received reports of protected species, such as the European bee-eater, barn swallow and common kestrel being targeted.

Those who witness the targeting of protected species should file a report to the police on 119.

Birdlife also reminded the public of their voluntary injured birds recovery service, which operates throughout the year, to rescue and rehabilitate injured wild birds.

This service can be reached on 2134 7646 or 7925 5697.

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