First published - Wednesday 6.30 p.m.

Update- 5 Thursday 3.28 pm

A man was arrested late yesterday in connection with the shooting down of a number of eagles, the parliamentary secretary for animal welfare, Roderick Galdes, has confirmed.

"One suspect was apprehended in the late hours yesterday and will be charged under arrest shortly. Several other suspects are being interrogated," Mr Galdes said.

Meanwhile, three eagles were shot down this morning, adding to a massacre which started in Gozo and continued in Buskett yesterday, a BirdLife spokesman said.

One was shot down in Gozo, another at Fomm ir-Rih and the third in Buskett, a BirdLife spokesman said. 

In all, 12 eagles have been confirmed shot since yesterday. Many others were injured.

BirdLife said this afternoon that two of these rare birds were today killed in front of its volunteers.

Yesterday's shooting moved the government to immediately announce a doubling of fines for hunting offences. The measure was welcomed by BirdLife (see separate story )

BirdLife and other ornithologists yesterday reported that some 60 short-toed,  booted and lesser-spotted eagles, as well as several ospreys had flown over Gozo and Malta.

Some were shot down over Gozo in the early afternoon while others were shot down around Girgenti, the Laferla Cross, in Siġġiewi and Buskett. The toll was calculated at more than 35.

The Government  condemned the shooting, describing what had taken place as 'barbaric'.

A booted eagle (File photo)A booted eagle (File photo)

Parliamentary Secretary Galdes said that the criminal act was being investigated and perpetrators would face the full brunt of the law. He appealed to all hunting organisations, individual hunters and members of the public to assist the authorities in their investigations.

The Government also said that tomorrow it would be amending the Conservation of Wild Birds Regulations to introduce harsher penalties for all forms of serious hunting-related offences.

Mr Galdes said the amendment constituted “the most comprehensive revision of hunting legislation in Malta since the transposition of the EC Birds Directive into Maltese law in 2006”.

“The traditional socio-cultural practice of hunting and live-capturing of wild birds in Malta must respect the principle of sustainability if it is to persist. This is why zero-tolerance policy in relation to wildlife crime is the only way forward. Barbaric criminal acts, such as the one that occurred today have no place in the modern society. This is why a more effective legal deterrent against illegalities is not an end in itself, but a means to guarantee not only the protection of wildlife, but also sustainability of legitimate hunting activities”, the Parliamentary Secretary said.

The maximum fines have also been increased, with €15,000 being the maximum applicable fine for repeat offenders- Government

Minimum fines for serious hunting offences such as for shooting protected birds or poaching in a bird sanctuary are being doubled, both for first and subsequent convictions, whilst the maximum fines have also been increased, with €15,000 being the maximum applicable fine for repeat offenders.

The new regime also envisages imprisonment for a period of between six months and up to two years, suspension of hunting licence for a period of between two and five years (with the possibility for permanent revocation), as well as confiscation, and the possibility of mandatory community service.


In parallel with the increase in penalties for serious hunting offences, a new, more effective system for dealing with minor infringements is also being introduced, the government said.

Minor offences, such as late return of Carnet de Chasse, non-declaration of birds legally hunted or taken, trespassing on clearly marked private property, the use of a bird caller, the carrying of an uncovered shotgun within 200 metres but not closer than 150 metres from an inhabited area, the use of a small scale portable cage-trap and possession of a firearm with a magazine capable of holding more than 2 shots, shall be subject to automatic administrative fines and will no longer require court action.

The Government has included 10 further bird species within a new schedule, which, it said, will effectively ensure that any crimes committed in relation to these birds will be liable to the same increased levels of penalty that would apply to crimes committed against birds already enjoying the highest level of legal protection.


The regulations also provide legal basis for the functioning of the newly-established Wild Birds Regulation Unit, and generally raise the standard of hunting governance by stipulating, for example, the minimum standards that a hunting organisation must fulfil in order to be recognised for the purpose of these regulations.


In a statement, Kaccaturi San Ubertu (KSU), a hunters' association, said it unreservedly condemned the shooting of the eagles as reported by some of its members.

"The maximum penalties contemplated for such atrocities include hefty fines and imprisonment. Such despicable vandal acts have no place in civilized society and are to be treated severely by the judiciary," the association said.

"On behalf of the legal interests of our members and thousands of other law abiding hunters, KSU call on Government to pronounce itself against such atrocities which ultimately undermine its immense effort to safeguard legal hunting in Malta."

The association pledged to help the police by reporting any witnessed illegal incident. It augured that perpetrators of such criminal acts be brought to justice.

Whilst being an isolated incident, it is atrocious in its consequence,both on wildlife and on the effect it will have on legal hunting.- FKNK

Separately, the hunters' federation (FKNK) in a statement said the came at a time when Government was intent on revising local legislation including the revision of fines and penalties

This incident came at a time when the FKNK said it had started to see results in the field and reap some of the benefits that come with credibility.

"This incident comes at a time when the collaboration of the FKNK with the local authorities was reaching the stage whereby the legal hunter was starting to regain the respect he/she deserves.

"This incident comes at a time when dealings with the European Commission are at a crucial stage that could see an overall improvement for the legal hunter and trapper in an ensemble of legal practice and self-control," the FKNK said.

"This incident could jeopardise all these efforts and throw away years of work and months of incessant fine-tuning to the local system to bring it in line with and even exceed the expectations of Commission whilst allowing an acceptable hunting and trapping scenario in the Maltese islands."

"Whilst being an isolated incident, it is atrocious in its consequence,both on wildlife and on the effect it will have on legal hunting. Very little can be said about this incident, except that, not everyone who carries a gun is a hunter, in the same way as not everyone who carries a knife is a killer," the federation said.

"The task at hand remains to identify and expel these outcasts and diehards who do not deserve to own a hunting licence and who have no place in a civilised hunting community. The FKNK’s commitment with the Police Commissioner not only remains, but will be strengthened by such acts."

It said its members are intent on seeking information that can lead to the arraignment of these 'criminals'.

It hoped that this incident would not impair the progress that had been achieved.

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