The only remaining stork from a sizeable flock should be taken out of Malta to keep it safe, the Ornis committee has decided.
No fewer than 18 white storks made their way to Malta two weeks ago but hunters targeted the flock immediately. The number quickly dwindled after five were confirmed shot.
BirdLife conservation manager Nicholas Barbara said the rest had probably become victims of illegal hunting as well.
The Ornis committee recommended that a derogation be issued in order to capture the last protected bird, he said. A foreign expert who is in contact with the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) is expected to arrive to catch the last stork and remove it from Malta, he added.
The site of the stork’s relocation is yet to be determined, Mr Barbara said. Ideally, it would be returned to where it was born, but the origin of the flock remains unknown since none were ringed.
“We are looking into the possibility of sending it to Germany, since there is a centre where it could be rehabilitated,” Mr Barbara explained.
The minute there was no police presence, they took the opportunity to shoot them down
The protected birds’ landing in Malta came as a surprise to environmentalists and conservationists, since it is unusual for storks to migrate this early in August.
Despite some police protection, environmentalists believe hunters’ taste for taxidermy proved too tempting to resist. “The minute there was no police presence because the birds were moving around, [hunters] took the opportunity to shoot them down,” said Mr Barbara.
“Relocating the bird is now the only possible solution,” he added.
In the meantime, BirdLife Malta and bird enthusiasts are monitoring the stork’s movements to make sure it remains safe.
The fact that the young stork is alone is also of concern, since the species always travels in flocks.
A 41-year-old man from Dingli was arraigned last week and subsequently charged with killing three protected storks. A person who allegedly shot two more of the birds was also apprehended by the police, according to Animal Rights Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri.
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