Updated - updates number of shot-down storks to eight after another was found in Madliena this afternoon

Two men were arrested by the police for allegedly shooting at a flock of storks in Madliena and Zurrieq yesterday afternoon and this morning, BirdLife Malta reported. The man arrested in Zurrieq was found in possession of two dead stocks while a shotgun and blood was found on the scene of the arrest in Madliena.

BirdLife said the flock was the largest ever recorded in Malta, but it was shot at from several localities.

At least eight storks were seen shot down, including an injured stork which was recovered but had to be euthanized by a vet. A stork was found dead in a garden in Madliena this afternoon. Another two injured storks were recorded in flight with dangling legs and missing feathers.

A shot Glossy Ibis (Velleran), another rare migratory bird for Malta, was also received by BirdLife yesterday afternoon from Zabbar.

The society said about 200 White Storks arrived in Malta yesterday afternoon and it immediately informed the police and mobilised its field teams to monitor the birds and ensure their safety.

The flock flew towards the Luqa airport area and two groups roosted at Ta' Kandja and Zurrieq. BirdLife Malta teams, the ALE and two MEPA environment officers watched over the birds until they roosted in the evening. BirdLife Malta, joined by nine volunteers, maintained a watch through the night on the two known roost sites at Ta' Kandja and Zurrieq.

During the night watch both teams heard distant shots coming from other areas.

"The sighting of White Storks is a reason for joy in many countries around Europe as they are one of the most majestic species that represent the phenomenon of bird migration. Yet, in Malta their appearance causes enforcement officials and bird watchers to rush to their vehicles to protect them from the brutal hunting we witnessed over the last 24 hours." said Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta conservation and policy officer.

"Despite the efforts of our teams, the police, and MEPA's environment officers at least seven storks were killed. Some of the birds are still flying over Malta and if they do not continue with their journey but decide to spend another night, we fear that more might be slaughtered." he Barbara.

BirdLife Malta said it was calling on the Office of the Prime Minister to significantly increase minimum penalties for illegal hunting, and permanently revoke licenses for all serious hunting and trapping contraventions, as this scenario repeats itself in the Maltese islands every single migration season.

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