Three men returning from a hunting trip to Scotland were caught at the airport in possession of the carcasses of five protected birds and are expected to be charged in court soon, according to a bird conservation group.

Customs officers found two common buzzards, two oyster catchers and a shelduck, all protected species in the UK, Malta and the EU, hidden inside the carcasses of legally shot birds, BirdLife Malta said.

The conservation group said it had learnt of two individuals who appeared in court in October after they were caught smuggling protected birds when they returned from the UK. The group’s conservation officer, Nicholas Barbara, said the individuals were each fined €240 and he hoped that in the latest case the courts would apply heftier fines to act as a deterrent.

“Maltese poachers have tarnished the reputation of Malta with their annual slaughter of migratory birds for many years and they are now travelling to other countries to shoot down protected species,” Mr Barbara said.

He said that BirdLife’s British counterparts, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, were eager to see the outcome of the latest case.

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