Say ‘Malta’ to many birders and conservationists and the first image that comes to mind is of men casually swinging guns skyward to blast birds migrating over what I long ago christened ‘the blood-soaked archipelago’ – the two islands that make up Malta. While the Maltese Tourist Board does its best to promote beaches, bars, culture, and sunshine the reality is less prosiac: Maltese hunters, cheered on by the hunting lobby the FKNK, are ruining the countryside and breaking EU law on innumerable occasions by gunning down protected and/or declining European species.
Not content with emptying Malta of its birds, these examples of all that is dangerous, complacent, arrogant, and thoughtless about hunters right across Europe have been caught with birds killed in the UK, have been filmed in Egypt – cackling as they murder protected waterbirds, metaphorically grabbing their crotches as they prove their manliness by emptying their guns at a small duck, or giggling like children as they blow cormorants apart – and have now been caught at customs after ‘holidaying’ in South America.
I have enough difficulty understanding the pleasure an adult might get killing a drugged lion in a canned hunt in Africa, but at least the less intelligent hunter in those cases can claim (rather pathetically in my opinion) to have been swayed by the lies and false data put out by the trophy hunting industry – but what kind of human being contemplates going on a trip to one of the most wonderfully diverse places on the planet to kill as much of the local wildlife as they can? Malta should be absolutely outraged that its citizens are exporting their particular brand of gutless ignorance across the globe, but apparently the story below (and the enormously damning photographs) barely caused a ripple of interest in local media – and from what I understand raised not a word of condemnation from the FKNK or government officials.
A few months ago I recorded two podcasts asking whether it was time to seriously look at boycotting Malta (a move not endorsed by BirdLife Malta). No-one wants to disadvantage Maltese who don’t support this kind of killing spree – but the question has to be asked: why are they silent? Why is there not a general condemnation of poaching on this scale? Most odd – to me at least – is that so many Maltese still apparently do not understand that the gun-wielding minority are dragging the international image of their country through the mud.
Perhaps they – and especially the apparently supine government – need to have the revulsion so many Europeans feel made very clear to them. And perhaps the best way of doing that would be to organise a European-wide boycott of the country’s main revenue earner: the tourist industry.
The following is the text of an article from 3rd July 2013 published in GeaPress at http://www.geapress.org/caccia/linate-dal-sudamerica-a-malta-le-valige-della-morte-video-e-fotogallery/45923. My Italian is non-existent, so I ran the article through Google Translate and have tidied up the somewhat mixed result.
Even without a translation the images (which are copyright of GeaPress) speak for themselves. The Maltese responsible for this slaughter should be jailed – the Maltese who are mute in the face of the evidence should hang their heads in shame.
Dal Sud America a Malta: le valigie della morte
– Confermata l’ipotesi trapelata sul traffico di specie protette per i trofei di caccia
“GEAPRESS – E’ confermabile quanto anticipato da GeaPress nei scorsi giorni, in merito alle molte decine di uccelli sventrati sequestrati nell’aeroporto milanese di Linate (vedi articolo GeaPress).
I quasi duecento animali, appartenenti a molte specie alcune delle quali rare e di difficile determinazione, potrebbero essere stati destinati al traffico illegale di trofei di caccia. Il tutto, riferisce il Corpo Forestale dello Stato nel comunicato odierno, in collegamento tra Europa, paesi mediorientali e paesi nordafricani. La stessa tesi, aggiunge la Forestale, già avanzata da molte associazioni ambientaliste: bracconieri ed imbalsamatori catturerebbero illegalmente, rari esemplari di fauna in varie aree del mondo, compresi parchi nazionali, per poi portarli in Europa dove verrebbero imbalsamati e immessi in circuiti illegali.
Dall’ispezione avvenuta lo scorso 14 giugno ma resa nota giorni dopo, è emerso trattavasi di avifauna protetta dalla Convenzione di Washington sul commercio internazionale delle specie di fauna e flora minacciate di estinzione (CITES). Quattro valigie con all’interno oltre 200 animali morti tutti appartenenti ad avifauna protetta: anatre, cicogne, ibis, aironi, tucani, fenicotteri, civette, poiane, sono solo alcune delle specie rinvenute, tutte appartenenti a categorie protette.
I viaggiatori erano stati precedentemente fermati dal servizio passeggeri della Dogana e dalla Guardia di Finanza per i controlli di routine previsti per i voli provenienti da paesi extra-UE. All’interno dei bagagli erano state rinvenute le carcasse dei volatili e in considerazione del singolare ritrovamento sono stati allertati, come previsto dal protocollo operativo tra Agenzia delle Dogane e Corpo forestale dello Stato, gli esperti del Nucleo Operativo Cites della Forestale.
Secondo indiscrezione trapelata parrebbe che i tre maltesi presentassero nei loro documenti qualcosa che ha attirato l’attenzione nel corso dei controlli.”
From South America to Malta: the bags of death
– Confirmation of the trafficking of protected species for hunting trophies
“GEAPRESS – Confirmation from GeaPress of the many tens of eviscerated birds seized at Milan’s Linate Airport last month (see article GeaPress).
The nearly two hundred birds, some of which are rare and difficult to identify, may have been intended for illegal hunting trophies, traded, says the State Forestry Corps in the press today, between European, Middle Eastern and North African countries. This practice, adds the Forest Service, has already been noted by many environmental groups: taxidermists are illegally poaching rare fauna in various areas of the world, including national parks, and then taking them to Europe where they are stuffed and sold illegally
The Customs inspection took place on 14 June but was announced a few days days later when it emerged that the birds were subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Within four suitcases were more than 200 dead birds – all belonging to protected species: ducks, storks, ibises, herons, toucans, flamingos, owls, buzzards, are just some of the species found.
Travelers had previously been stopped by the passenger service of the Customs and Finance Guard for routine checks made on flights arriving from non-EU countries. Inside the luggage was found the carcasses of birds, and because of the unique discovery experts from the Operational Cites of Forestry were alerted, as required by the operational protocol between the Customs Agency and the State Forestry Corps,
According to sources it would seem that something the three Maltese put in their travel documents attracted the attention of customs officers.
The BirdLife Malta website: http://www.birdlifemalta.org
BirdLife Malta is part of an international network of fully co-ordinated ringing stations and National Ringing Schemes that have been indispensable for the efficient management of scientific bird ringing in Europe. We are the leading voice in ensuring that Malta’s hunters WILL conform with EU Directives and spring hunting will be banned in accordance with those directives. Birdlife Malta currently manages two nature reserves, Ghadira and Is-Simar, and also joint manages an afforestation project known as Foresta 2000 (located adjacent to Ghadira): the two nature reserves are both Ramsar-designated wetland areas and represent the largest free-standing sources of water in Malta.