An investigation conducted by an NGO has led the police to one of the largest illegal live bird collections seized in Malta in recent years.

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said its teams confirmed that a field near Għaxaq was being used for large-scale illegal trapping and that a multitude of protected birds were being held on the property.

The information was handed over to the Environmental Protection Unit, which together with experts from the Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU), inspected the site and confiscated two sets of large clap nets and 136 live protected birds from 18 species.

Little stint with severe concretions of faeces on the feet. Photo: CABSLittle stint with severe concretions of faeces on the feet. Photo: CABS

Several plastic decoys and stuffed herons, another protected species, were also taken as evidence. A male suspect was apprehended on site. He is expected to be prosecuted for illegal trapping and illegal possession of protected species. According to CABS, the suspect may also face charges for animal cruelty violations.

The live birds found on the site include 16 green sandpipers, 16 wood sandpipers, 16 common sandpipers, 16 greenfinches, 13 little ringed plovers, 12 linnets, nine little stints, nine siskins, eight chaffinches, five common ringed plovers, five serins, three black-winged stilts, two tree sparrows, two Temminck's stints, one goldfinch, one yellow wagtail, one red-throated pipit and one greenshank.

The birds were inspected by a vet and later released in the Għadira Nature Reserve.

Police carry a cage full with confiscated songbirds. Photo: CABSPolice carry a cage full with confiscated songbirds. Photo: CABS

Experts from BirdLife assisted in the logging and banding of every bird with a scientific ring before the release.

CABS said that due to the terrible conditions that the birds were kept in, eight of the waders died and another six were too ill to release and must first recover in a rehabilitation centre.

A large number of the others suffered from deliberately cut flight feathers and concretions of faeces on the feet due to unsuitable living conditions but will still be able to be released in the near future. CABS thanked the police and the WBRU for their fast response and hard work on the case.

A confiscated black-winged stilt looks out of a box. Photo: CABSA confiscated black-winged stilt looks out of a box. Photo: CABS

The NGO said its teams will continue to search for illegal trapping sites and monitor the ongoing hunting season until the end of the year.

Yellow wagtail with severe tail feather damage confiscated in Għaxaq. Photo: CABSYellow wagtail with severe tail feather damage confiscated in Għaxaq. Photo: CABS

Green sandpipers confiscated in Għaxaq. Photo: CABSGreen sandpipers confiscated in Għaxaq. Photo: CABS

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