BirdLife Malta said this afternoon that hunters were shooting protected birds, even right in front of international and Maltese birdwatchers who were participating in BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp.

"A pale-phase juvenile Honey buzzard was recovered by police from Wied iz-Zurrieq at sea on Thursday. The internal gunshot injuries were so severe that the bird had to be put down. This morning BirdLife received another shot Honey buzzard with gun shot injuries while ALE officers collected a third shot Honey Buzzard from Laferla Cross where a Raptor Camp team was present. In addition, this afternoon four poachers in a boat in Gozo channel were seen shooting at a party of Little Egrets. The sea hunting season is currently closed and will open in October."

BirdLife said the increasing number of incidentscoincided with the half-way point of BirdLife Malta’s Raptor Camp, which started on Saturday.

The aim of the initiative is to have teams of birdwatchers monitor key sites to assess the numbers of birds passing through the island and to work with the authorities to clamp down on illegal hunting.

Tolga Temuge, the Executive Director of BirdLife Malta, said: “Typically, some Maltese hunters continue to display a disregard of the law and protected wildlife by opting to gun down protected species. The hunting lobby’s denial of the scale of illegal hunting is clearly encouraging illegal hunters. Those who claim to be law abiding hunters are also guilty if they do not report the illegal shooting of protected species that they witness”.

The conservation organization called on the government to double the fines for repeat offenders and cancel the licences temporarily.