The Germany-based Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said today that it had filed hunting of protected birds in Safi during the first week of its Operation ‘Honey Buzzard’.

The 'operation' is monitoring bird unting during the open season.

"CABS volunteers have registered to date the shooting down of more than 25 protected birds and have managed to record most of these incidents on film," it said. In addition a freshly-shot Marsh Harrier, a live Hoopoe with gunshot wounds, a badly wounded Grey Heron and 13 dead Bee-eaters were discovered in various locations on Malta and Gozo.

The committee said the hotspot of poaching activity this past week was the area around the international airport. Ten birds of prey and a Grey Heron were shot down or shot at around Safi over the past nine days.

Committee spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld said that 'total anarchy' ruled in Safi. 

"The police are doing their utmost but the use of their normal reactive tactics in the difficult terrain, with a maze of high walls and trees offering ideal concealment for the poachers, is inadequate in terms of law enforcement and prosecution. New proactive tactics, to include a substantial temporary concentration of manpower, are needed if the situation in Safi is to be brought under control”.

CABS said that on Saturday week, it filmed a hunter shooting at a strictly protected Osprey nearSafi.  Several minutes later the same team filmed several hunters shooting at a Marsh Harrier and downing it. The conservationists called the police who searched the area but were unable to find either the bird or the perpetrators. The peak of the excessive poaching in Safi was yesterday, when a single CABS team filmed the shooting down of two Marsh Harriers and a Common Kestrel, as well as the shooting at three more birds of prey. A police search was also fruitless.

A poacher who shot at two Honey Buzzards near the Nadur tower on 20 September also escaped detection. Although a CABS team captured the incident on video the poacher managed to get away without being identified.

On the same day a person or persons laid out a dead rat and rabbit, as well as a freshly shot Marsh Harrier, at an observation point used daily by CABS near Bingemma - 'obviously as a warning to the volunteers'. The corpse of the Marsh Harrier was taken to a vet and x-rayed   and the cause of death was clearly established to shot gun injuries, from no less that 14 lead pellets. The bird was handed over to the police.

On Friday, in the ditch of Fort Bingemma a CABS team found the remains of 13 freshly-shot Bee-eaters. The corpses or remains of protected birds had been found at the same spot last year. The birds had clearly been used by hunters for target practice and later dumped in the deep and overgrown ditch, CABS said.

In Gozo onThursday, the police found a freshly shot Hoopoe found whilst searching for a Honey Buzzard that had been shot down in view of a CABS team deployed to San Raflu. The bird’s injuries were treated by a vet who confirmed that the bird was shot. Despite intensive care the bird did not survive. On the following day, between San Lawrenz and Gharb on Gozo, a CABS team witnessed a hunter shooting at a Honey Buzzard that flew on uninjured. Although they were unable to film the incident they kept the man under observation and called the police. A search of his possessions showed that he was using illegal heavy gauge ammunition. He will be charged accordingly.

CABSsaid its  teams will remain in Malta and Gozo until October 7 in order to record incidents of illegal hunting and to assist the police in the detection and prosecution of poachers.

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