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BirdLife mocks illegal occupation of public land

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BirdLife mocks illegal occupation of public landIn an activity designed to draw attention to the illegal occupation of public land by hunters and trappers, BirdLife Malta today set up a hunting hide at St George’s square in front of the Parliament building complete with signs reading ‘RTO’ and ‘Keep Out’.

A BirdLife volunteer dressed in typical camouflage gear used by hunters stood inside the hide. Stray cartridges were strewn around the hide to resemble the waste usually found around such sites in the countryside. A bird scarer made up of wire with empty cans tied to it, usually used by hunters to flush out birds from nearby trees, was also tied to the hide.

The superintendent of the Valletta police station came to the site about an hour after the hide had been set up. She informed BirdLife that the structure could not remain on site without the necessary permit. BirdLife immediately proceeded to removing the structure and clean up the site.

“We are drawing attention to the ridiculous situation in Malta where hunters and trappers are allowed to illegally occupy public land with no enforcement action by the relevant authorities. Just as it is inconceivable that people occupy a public place like St George’s square, it should be equally unthinkable that thousands of individuals be allowed to sit on public land,” said Geoffrey Saliba, Campaign Coordinator for BirdLife Malta.

“Mizieb is a microcosm of this situation, with 256 hunting and trapping hides concentrated in an area that is a third of the size of Comino. A number of them are nothing like the rudimentary structure we have set up here – in Mizieb, and other places, hides have become permanent structures made out of concrete with iron doors,” he added.

A report released by BirdLife Malta last month revealed that to date 256 hides can be counted in the Mizieb woodland amounting to a density of 178 hides/km². The report also revealed there was no legal basis to the FKNK’s claim to ‘manage’ the site as a hunting ground.

The mismanagement of the site has allowed the continued development of new hides in Mizieb that have even spread into the nearby is-Simar Bird Sanctuary where at least 22 hides are located. This is an area that is designated as enjoying special protection where hunting and trapping is illegal under Legal Notice 79 of 2006.

“There is no explanation as to why MEPA and the Lands Department are not removing these illegal structures from Mizieb and other areas that dot the countryside from Gozo to Marsascala. The law is clear and action must be taken, but the authorities remain selective on who they want to ensure abides by the law,” Saliba said.

“The hunting lobby seems to be governing this country as laws are twisted or entirely ignored to suit their demands. This is not only unfair to law-abiding citizens; it is unacceptable,” he added.

BirdLife called on the government to eliminate the current double standards and start by removing illegally built hunting and trapping hides from Mizieb and EU protected Natura 2000 sites. This is an important step towards removing all illegally built hunting and trapping hides built on public land and on private land without the necessary development permits.

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