Over the weekend in Gozo, joint patrols of CABS, the Gozo Police and WBRU enforcement officers dismantled 19 illegal bird trapping installations on the island.
In the course of the operations 10 freshly caught Turtle Doves, 8 Starlings, 2 Quails, 1 Hawfinch and 1 Greenfinch were confiscated and subsequently released.
In a statement, CABS praised the authorities for their cooperation but at the same time regretted “the massive lack of proactive law enforcement to curb with illegal bird trapping on Gozo.”
CABS said that the raid, which targeted illegal trapping sites found by CABS volunteers during the last week, has resulted in investigations against 8 landowners on whose ground active traps and nets were found.
The inspections found 7 illegal trapping-aviaries for Turtle Doves, 1 cage trap for Starlings, 3 large ground net for Quail trapping, 6 cage traps for finches and 2 clap nets.
CABS went on to say that a trapper was caught red-handed in Marsalforn and is expected to be taken to court soon.
Police and WBRU announced that they will investigate the owners of the land where the other traps have been found.
“Some of the sites inspected were also active and reported last year, and are known to the authorities as problem areas,” said CABS.
CABS Press Officer Axel Hirschfeld pointed out that, “instead of inspecting these sites on their own initiative the Gozitan authorities did nothing until the next report reached them.”
Hirschield added that “illegal spring trapping of Turtle Doves has become a massive and widespread problem.”
“In the last two years CABS alone have reported more than 30 cases involving more than 500 caged Turtle Doves which were either illegally caught or used as live decoys.”
CABS said that – when approached by the police – “hunters often tried to prevent the confiscation of live birds by arguing that the traps were in fact aviaries and the birds inside were captive-bred.”
According to the NGO the regular use of this claim by hunters – and the alarming number of cases – “also raises questions pertaining to the legal origin of 400 Turtle Doves which were released in Buskett by hunters in May last year.”
CABS remarked that, “the hunting federation FKNK has claimed that these 400 birds were bred by only 14 hunters as part of a programme supported by the Government.”
CABS President Heinz Schwarze stated, “apart from the fact that such a high reproduction rate is very unlikely, the rising number of cases involving hunters and illegal Turtle Dove trapping should have sounded the alarm bells of the authorities who support this dubious breeding programme.”
“We urge the Government to restrain from permitting similar releases until it has been proven that the birds in question are of legal origin and not taken from the wild,” he said.
CABS stated that “the FKNK said that the aim of its project is to `maintain the sustainability of the species.’ According to the FKNK the project is meant to be a kind of compensation to nature for birds shot by hunters during the legal hunting season.”
Photos: An active clap net for waders and below – An illegal cage trap for Hawfinches with live decoy, 2.) An illegal net for Quail with a live decoy 3.) A seized cage with live Quail, and a cage trap with Turtle Dove – All photos taken on Gozo during last weekend´s operation – CABS