Booted Ea­gle shot down over Gir­genti

Slaugh­ter of pro­tected birds dur­ing the au­tumn hunt­ing sea­son con­tin­ues as an­other very scarce ea­gle species is shot down. Il­le­gal larg­erthan-per­mit­ted pel­let found in its ab­domen

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

Pre­cisely one month to the day from the ex­cep­tional ea­gle mi­gra­tion that ended up with at least 10 out of an es­ti­mated 60 Short-toed and Booted Ea­gles be­ing killed at the be­gin­ning of Novem­ber, an­other of these rare ea­gles was shot down over Gir­genti on Wed­nes­day.

The pro­tected Booted Ea­gle (Ajkla tal-Kalzetti) is a very rare ea­gle species for Malta and re­ports that one of these mag­nif­i­cent birds of prey was ob­served fly­ing over the air­port first came in on Wed­nes­day at around mid­day.

A few hours later, at around 3pm more re­ports came in that the ea­gle was sighted at Gir­genti where it was be­ing il­le­gally tar­geted by hunters. Even­tu­ally, af­ter other re­ports which BirdLife Malta re­ceived that shots were be­ing fired at the ea­gle as it flew over the val­ley, the ea­gle was lost over Gir­genti.

It was around an hour later that fresh in­for­ma­tion led BirdLife Malta staff to re­trieve the rap­tor from Gir­genti Val­ley. The bird, which was found not mov­ing, was im­me­di­ately vis­ited and di­ag­nosed by a doc­tor. Af­ter tak­ing an X-ray, the vet cer­ti­fied the griev­ous in­juries that the Booted Ea­gle had suf­fered due to gun­shots and it was de­cided that the bird had to be eu­thanised. The ea­gle had its right leg bro­ken and a pel­let in its ab­domen which was larger than per­mit­ted by law – in­dica­tive of the in­tent to specif­i­cally tar­get birds of prey.

The Booted Ea­gle (Hier­aae­tus pen­na­tus) is a medium-sized mostly mi­gra­tory bird of prey with a wide distri­bu­tion in the Palearc­tic and south­ern Asia, win­ter­ing in the trop­ics of Africa and Asia, with a small, dis­junct breed­ing pop­u­la­tion in south­west­ern Africa. It is con­sid­ered as the small­est ea­gle in Europe.

Since the start of the au­tumn hunt­ing sea­son in Septem­ber which this year brought about a mas­sacre of pro­tected species, BirdLife Malta res­cued and en­sured ve­teri­nary care for around 100 in­jured birds. These range from the pro­tected Booted Ea­gle and the iconic Pere­grine Fal­con to count­less trushes, quail and star­lings.

This num­ber does not in­clude the large amount of known shot birds and the end­less list of other known il­le­gal­i­ties re­ported since the start of this year’s hunt­ing sea­son, par­tic­u­larly at the peak of rap­tor mi­gra­tion, such as the Black Storks, buz­zards and herons.

In these cir­cum­stances, iron­i­cally, the only known ar­raign­ment by the po­lice so far was that of 3 Novem­ber when a 23-year-old Mosta man was charged in court with shoot­ing one of the Booted Ea­gles ob­served over the Mal­tese Is­lands dur­ing the ex­cep­tional ea­gle mi­gra­tion last month. It was ev­i­dence col­lected by BirdLife Malta which led to his ar­rest. The sus­pect was granted bail against a €2,000 de­posit and a per­sonal guar­an­tee of €10,000.

BirdLife Malta con­tin­ues to in­sist on the im­por­tance of the es­tab­lish­ment of a Wildlife Crime Unit for Malta. This spe­cialised unit would strengthen the po­lice to be in a po­si­tion to com­bat crim­i­nal acts re­lated to na­ture and en­vi­ron­men­tal law en­force­ment. It is clear that Malta needs a stronger law en­force­ment agency within the po­lice force to work closely with NGOs to safeguard the birds and na­ture of our is­lands.

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