Three Maltese nationals were arrested in Italy following the discovery of 180 carcasses of protected birds at Milan’s Linate Airport.The Maltese were stopped by Customs officers on their way back to Malta from a trip to Argentina. The discovery was made on June 14.

According to the Italian media, dead birds intended to be smuggled into Malta were found in their luggage.

The Milan police said in a statement on Tuesday they had found 180 species of protected birds at risk of extinction.

The Italian State Forest Corps and the Guardia di Finanza were involved in the operation.

The absurdities that exist in Malta do not exist anywhere else

Sources said the police in Malta have not been informed about the arrests and neither has the hunters’ federation. The carcasses included those of wattled jacana waders, silver teals, nacunda nighthawk and many whistling herons.

Argentina is becoming a popular hunting destination among Maltese hunters. With restriction in Malta and in other EU member states, Maltese hunters are opting for exotic destinations that include North Africa and the Middle East where they are afforded larger bags.

According to a survey commissioned by the Hunters’ Federation (FKNK) last year, 23 per cent of Maltese hunters have been on hunting trips abroad, with the UK topping the list of destinations. Hunters spend between €1,500 and €7,000 per trip abroad.

Former Labour MP Michael Falzon, an avid hunter, was among those who admitted going on hunting trips to Argentina and other countries. Footage of him on a hunting trip in 2009 surfaced last year. He defended his trips saying that “the absurdities that exist in Malta (with regard to hunting) do not exist anywhere else”.

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