Since the end of Raptor Camp last Sunday, BirdLife Malta surveillance teams and birdwatchers have witnessed widespread illegal hunting, including the targeting of a lesser spotted eagle and two black storks, rare protected migrants in the Maltese islands.

BirdLife said in a statement that yesterday afternoon a Black Stork was witnessed dropping out of the sky after several shots were fired on it in the Wied Fulija area.

Another was seen flying behind a copse of trees in Xaghra tal-Isqof, following which a barrage of shots was heard.

A BirdLife surveillance team then saw a person talking on the radio and heard radio communication instructing people to keep searching the ground for a downed bird.

Yesterday morning, three BirdLife Malta surveillance teams surrounded the Buskett area to ensure that a Lesser Spotted Eagle, which roosted in the area for the night, could safely leave the islands.

The eagle was shot at once as it flew low after leaving its roost, but fortunately gained height and was seen heading out to sea.

BirdLife said that on Wednesday, it was informed by a member of the public about a Honey Buzzard trying to swim at Paradise Bay, bleeding through its mouth.

The protected bird was recovered by a BirdLife team and immediately taken to the vet. The bird had a pellet lodged in a lung and a broken wing.

Over the course of five days since Raptor Camp ended BirdLife Malta has continued to receive shot protected birds including a common kestrel, another honey buzzard and a night heron, it said.

BirdLife said all birds were reported to the Malta Environment and Planning Authority, the Administrative Law Enforcement and the Office of the Prime Minister and handed over to the ALE or the Natural History Museum, a procedure followed for all protected birds received by BirdLife Malta.

“Since the Office of the Prime Minister has taken the environment under its portfolio following the general elections, there has been no improvement in the protection of wild birds.

“The ALE remains under-staffed and under-resourced, there is still no wildlife crime unit, and majority of the offenders continue to receive low fines,” said Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta executive director.

“It seems, even the discovery of the bird cemetery at Mizieb and hundreds of illegally built hunting and trapping hides on public land in the woodland, is not enough to get the OPM to take action.

“The Office of the Prime Minister continues to stick its head in the sand, while migratory birds are illegally gunned down on a daily basis” he said.