The trapping of thousands of birds under the cover of an alleged 'research project' has turned the Maltese countryside into one giant bird trap, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said on Tuesday.

"This ´study´ is a trojan horse designed to fool the EU and the Maltese public with the sole aim of protecting the selfish and anti-social activity of bird poaching“, CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld said in a statement.

He added that in the last three weeks CABS teams have reported 51 cases of illegal trapping to the authorities, who confiscated more than 238 finches and trapping equipment worth several thousands of euros.

One man was caught trapping illegally 24 hours after he was convicted for the same offence.

"As enforcement is very low this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whatever results will emerge from this ´research project´ will come at the cost of the lives and the freedom of thousands wild birds,“ Hirschfeld continued.

CABS observed that the FKNK on Monday had labelled its efforts and those of  Birdlife Malta to curb illegal trapping as "arrogant persecution, through espionage, provocation, violation of private property and arbitrary exercise of alleged rights to the serious detriment of trappers taking part in the research”. The FKNK had also urged the government to 'protect trappers' from CABS.

CABS said it would increase and extend its monitoring activities to uncover illegal bird trapping until the end of the year.

Illegal trapping complex found in Miżieb

Last Sunday, it said, its observers found and reported a massive illegal trapping complex surrounded by a three-metre high razor wire fence and guard dogs within the limits of the Miżieb woodland, an area managed by the FKNK.

The police were called and arrested two poachers operating two sets of clap nets and a large vertical mist net, which were seized by EPU. The mist net contained a freshly caught robin, which was freed by EPU officers on site.

CABS noted that the police did neither confiscate the live decoys used for the mist net nor did the officers inspect a number of large aviaries which contained dozens of finches and which were found right next to the illegal clap net within the fenced complex.

It said one of the two poachers is a participant of the government's study-project and tried to lead police officers by the nose by presenting paperwork confirming that he is a 'government-approved scientist'.

But since his 'licence' did not cover the site in question it was regarded as irrelevant and the police will press charges against him for trapping birds with an illegal mist set up nearby.

His trapping partner was found operating the unregistered finch trapping site. The police confirmed that the man is a relapser, and had also been reported by CABS in 2016 and 2018 and taken to court both times.

"This is just one of dozens of cases which prove that Mizieb is still a poaching hotspot. We are asking FKNK: How many cases of poaching have been reported by your organisation? How is it possible that in an area frequented by hundreds of FKNK members none of them saw and reported these illegal traps?“ Hirschfeld asked.

CABS also urged the government to stop the controversial trapping project and increase the minimum fines for illegal bird trapping determined in the law so they can serve as a genuine deterrent.

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