32 illegal finch trapping sites spotted in Gozo, no ALE on the island – CABS
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The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has said today that aerial survey flights conducted earlier this month revealed a massive increase of illegal finch trapping in spring, “with 32 sites spotted in Gozo,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said
She added, “we have been informed that many Maltese trappers go to Gozo to trap, since there is no ALE there.” “Despite only 30% of Malta and Gozo being covered by the flight a total of 127 active clap netting sites were photographed. During a similar count last year only 51 sites could be located on 30% of the islands.”
CABS said that “nearly all of the sites spotted this spring have also been found active in October, when trapping was allowed by the Government.”
“The derogation for trapping in autumn revived the black market for live songbirds and led to a massive increase in prices which in turn also encouraged illegal trapping in spring,” CABS Wildlife Crime Officer Fiona Burrows said.
She pointed out that the opening of the trapping season last autumn also led to a massive increase in the smuggling of protected finches from Italy with at least 2093 birds seized by the authorities in only 6 months.
In the last two weeks CABS teams have been monitoring the sites on the ground. “When we see somebody trapping we gather video evidence and call the police,” Ms. Burrows added. So far the police have been called 11 times resulting in the apprehension of 7 poachers and the seizure of 7 pairs of clap nets. Several electronic bird callers were also found and confiscated.
A total of 18 live birds – Linnets and Greenfinch- were confiscated. The worst areas for illegal trapping were Dingli (20 sites), Birzebugga (11 sites), Fawarra (9 sites), Zurrieq (8 sites), Bahrija (6 sites), Zejtun (5 sites) and Gozo (32 sites).
According to CABS the average police response time was better than last spring, leading to more trappers being caught on site. “However, trapping equipment and decoy birds were only confiscated by police when the trapper escaped.”
Fiona Burrows said “the police told us that since autumns open season for finches it is now allowed to possess nets with small mesh size, and possession of ringed finches is also allowed, so confiscation of these items, even if found active in spring, is not always possible”.
This loophole means that since the equipment is still in their possession the trappers have the possibility to continue illegally trapping, CABS said.
CABS announced that it will continue monitoring the sites until the end of finch migration in April. It calls on the general public to report all bird trapping sites found active in spring to the police.
It said that people who want to stay anonymous can also sent their information by email to email@example.com.
Photos: A trapper preparing his nets on Gozo and Confiscated finches, police officers removing nets on Gozo