Birdlife Malta this afternoon defended the retention of a curfew on hunting in September afternoons, saying it was one of the surest ways to save more birds of prey from illegal hunting.

The curfew prohibits hunting after 3pm during the peak period for raptor (bird of prey) migration- between September 15 and 30. It was introduced five years ago to prevent illegal hunters from using the cover of the open hunting season to target protected birds of prey as they search for roosting sites in the afternoon.

During a recent meeting of the Ornis Committee, which advises the government on bird conservation and hunting and trapping issues, Birdlife proposed an extension of the existing curfew by one week to cover the first week of October, citing evidence of increased illegal hunting of birds of prey in the afternoon during this period last year.

Explaining the need for an extension of the curfew, Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager, said, “many birds of prey and other protected birds are still migrating in the first week of October, but they are not protected by the current curfew. Extending the curfew to cover this period would go a long way to better protecting these birds in practice, not just on paper.”

"Last autumn, BirdLife Malta and CABS each separately and independently recorded a threefold increase in the targeting of protected birds during the afternoon period following the lifting of the afternoon curfew on October 1, when compared with the preceding two weeks, during which the curfew was in place."

The Ornis Committee voted down proposals by the FKNK (Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists) to lift the afternoon curfew altogether.

The Committee did not reach consensus on other proposals put forward on the timing of the curfew, including a proposal to have the curfew pushed back to as late as 7pm.

“In practice, pushing the curfew back to 7pm from 3pm would be the same as removing it altogether, something the Ornis Committee already voted against,” said Mr Barbara, pointing out that the vast majority of migrating raptors would already have roosted well before sunset and a curfew introduced at this time would do nothing to protect them.

Mr Barbara expressed serious concerns about suggestions by a government representative at the Ornis meeting that increased enforcement could make up for the removal of the curfew.

“Despite efforts at curtailing abuse, birds of prey are still the most targeted group of protected birds in Malta, sought after primarily for taxidermy. Increased enforcement would be best used as a measure on top of the afternoon curfew, not instead of it, giving police in the countryside a much better chance of identifying and apprehending those illegal hunters determined on shooting protected birds.” 

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