‘Bird scientists’ are poachers – CABS; Police issue charges against 10

Photo by: Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

‘Bird scientists’ have turned out to be poachers, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said on Monday highlight than the police have issued charges against ten men who claimed to be ‘scientists’.

In a statement, the committee explained that criminal proceedings were initiated after it filed 14 reports. CABS’ members have gathered footage showing 14 persons trapping finches without the necessary permits and site registration.

According to the organisation the police seized nine sets of clap-nets, two cage traps (trabokki) and 42 live birds including Siskins, Hawfinches, Chaffinches, Linnets and Greenfinches. While illegal trapping sites were found in Żurrieq, Ħas-Saptan, Fomm ir-Riħ and Qala, Ta’ Ċenċ, Kerċem and Żebbuġ on Gozo.

“When questioned by the police, ten trappers falsely claimed to be participants of the government´s dubious finch study, some even provided fake paperwork to the officers“, CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said; adding that the police on Gozo did not have access the WBRU databank of permitted sites when a CABS team reported illegal trapping in Ta Cenc and Kercem last week.

“As they had no official data at hand, the police officers refrained from confiscating the nets and allowed the poachers to continue trapping”, Burrows said. However, after an enquiry from CABS, the government’s Wild Bird Regulation Unit (WBRU) subsequently confirmed that no permits were issued for the sites in question.

“We expect the police not only to charge these men for illegal trapping but also to inspect their aviaries and investigate them for misleading the police by falsifying documents”, Burrows maintained. She said that also on Malta poachers tried to avoid punishment by either running away from the police or falsely claiming to be working on the WBRU-project.

The committee noted that both it and Birdlife Malta have repeatedly criticised Prime Minister Robert Abela and Gozo Minister Clint Camilleri for allowing trappers to ‘catch and release’ seven species of birds under the smokescreen of a dubious scientific study.

“Wherever our teams operate they observe massive, rampant abuse and practically zero proactive enforcement. The government is taking everybody for a ride when it claims that this is a scientific project while in fact their only intention is to appease the trappers and help them to provide supplies for their aviaries and illegal collections”, CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld stated.

The Wild Birds’ Regulation Unit’s (WBRU) under the direction of the Ministry of Gozo, applied a research derogation to determine that the numbers of 7 finch species captured in Malta are less than 1% of the bird populations’ annual mortality.

The WBRU is allows trappers to catch wild finches in an attempt to encounter finches wearing lightweight metal identification rings fitted by international research groups for the scientific study of wild birds (bird ringing) to find out their origin.