Updated 9.34pm with statement by the environment minister - The Nationalist Party has urged bird bunters to help the authorities track down those who shot protected birds, while also calling on the police to ensure there is stronger law enforcement. 

In a joint statement, PN leader Adrian Delia, environment spokesman Karol Aquilina and Mario Galea, spokesman on animal welfare, said the shooting of protected birds had drawn all round condemnation and the hunters' community could not ignore what had happened.

The party said it was urging hunters to cooperate with the police and the authorities to track down those who broke the law. Their actions were undermining Malta's environmental credentials and casting all hunters in a bad light, the PN said. 

The party also said the government was 'evidently' failing in law enforcement, despite promises to the contrary following the referendum two years ago.

Earlier today, BirdLife Malta expressed 'disgust' at the shooting of protected birds during the autumn hunting season, and criticised the police for doing too little to stop the illegalities.

In a separate statement, the hunters' federation (FKNK) said it unreservedly condemned the poachers who shot two flamingos in two separate incidents reported yesterday, saying such illegal acts were jeopardising its efforts to safeguard hunting and trapping culture.

Environment Minister Jose Herrera, in a three-line statement late this evening also appealed to the authorities, particularly the police, to take all necessary actions to ensure that protected birds were no longer the victims of irresponsible persons.

No political will to stop abuse - BirdLife

BirdLife said there was no political will to bring this abusive situation to an end, and it was more clear than ever that the prime minister's zero-tolerance message after the last election was just a gimmick, CEO Mark Sultana told a press conference.

He said that in the past 12 hours, two injured marsh harriers and two grey herons were recovered by BirdLife and were taken to the vet for scans. 

The grey herons were later confirmed as having been shot, bringing the number of known protected birds shot this season up to 13 - one every two days since the start of the season.  

"The 11 are just the ones we know of after being alerted by the public. How many more birds were shot in secret and are now frozen waiting to be stuffed, or were injured but carried on their journey?" Mr Sultana asked. 

He said that the police were not doing their job and there was a serious lack of law enforcement.  

Herons, he said, were shot in in the Inwadar national park area, where hunting is allowed (as in Majjistral park). This sent a message to anyone looking to shoot a protected bird.
"Without serious law enforcement we risk going back decades, he said, pointing out that illegal hunting was still prevalent but was more effectively hidden than before.

Yesterday, he said, a huge flight of birds flew over the island after the rain, yet just three police units (around 10 officers) were out and about.

Five years ago the police would organise roadblocks and inspections, he said. 

FKNK asks to be part of police investigations into hunting crime

The hunters' federation said it wants to be involved in police investigations into illegal poaching and to be part of veterinary examinations of shot protected birds.

The Federation for Hunting and Conservation said it unreservedly condemned the poachers who shot two flamingos in two separate incidents reported yesterday, saying such illegal acts were jeopardising its efforts to safeguard hunting and trapping culture.

The FKNK also said it was formally asking authorities to let it know whenever reports of poaching were filed, to allow it to "follow and assist in the police investigation."  

The lobby group also called on authorities to allow a representative to observe any official examination by a vet, and to take part in any eventual decision on what to do with the bird or its carcass.
In its statement, the FKNK said that thousands of protected birds flew past hunters without getting shot or trapped, and included links of photos of protected birds posted by FKNK members on social media networks.

St Hubert's Hunters condemn poachers

Another hunting lobby group, St Hubert's Hunters, also condemned poachers responsible for shooting down flamingos, and said that many such incidents ended up as convictions.

The group noted that penalties for the shooting for protected birds under schedule A were not among those reduced in a recently-announced revision of hunting crime penalties, and said it expected maximum penalties for anyone caught breaking these laws.

"The exemplary behaviour of the absolute majority should not be penalized due to the actions of a few undesirables not worthy of being called hunters," St Hubert's Hunters said.


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