Global protection for migratory birds agreed by conservationists

 Common Cranes, such as these birds migrating north over Spain, may be more robustly protected after this week's international agreements. Photo: Antonio (commons.wikimedia.org).

Common Cranes, such as these birds migrating north over Spain, may be more robustly protected after this week’s international agreements. Photo: Antonio (commons.wikimedia.org)

Two new international agreements have been reached by conservationists to help save migratory bird species across continents.

The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) has agreed a set of guidelines to tackle some of the causes of poisoning and ratified a ground-breaking action plan to save more than 400 bird species.

In top of this, the Poisoning Resolution to reduce and minimise poisoning of migrating birds includes a ban on veterinary diclofenac, the phasing out of all lead ammunition, and action on lethal rodenticides, insecticides and poison baits. These five groups of toxic substance were identified as the most significant poisoning risks to migratory birds and the agreement marks a milestone in ending this threat. Continue reading

Red List for Birds 2013: Number of Critically Endangered birds hits new high

Populations of Black-footed Albatross have increased resulting in the species being downlisted on the Red List 2013 (Ben Lascelles)

Populations of Black-footed Albatross have increased resulting in the species being downlisted on the Red List 2013 (Ben Lascelles)

The number of bird species listed as Critically Endangered has reached an all-time high with the release of this year’s Red List for birds by BirdLife International.

White-winged Flufftail Sarothrura ayresi, a secretive and unobtrusive sub-Saharan bird, is the latest species to join the growing list of those on the very edge of extinction. Destruction and degradation of its high altitude wet grassland habitat, including wetland drainage, conversion for agriculture, water abstraction, overgrazing by livestock and cutting of marsh vegetation, have driven it to this precarious state. Continue reading

Devoid of habitat, birds say bye to Okhla sanctuary

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For a city which has been crying hoarse over depleting green cover and almost vanishing birdlife, this comes as nothing less than an environmental disaster. Noida’s Okhla Bird Sanctuary has been completely drained of water, at exactly the time when migratory birds start flocking to it, thanks to the UP irrigation department’s decision to clean it right now. Environmentalists are afraid that this will either drive away the winged visitors or result in their death. Continue reading

BirdLife dubs regulation unit’s proposal for autumn bird trapping ‘inside job by FKNK’

FKNK has put forward proposals to allow finch trapping this autumn.

FKNK has put forward proposals to allow finch trapping this autumn.

Representatives of BirdLife Malta sitting on the Ornis Committee withdrew from discussions this afternoon after presenting their concerns to committee members and chairperson, Louis Cassar.

During this afternoon’s meeting, the Wild Bird Regulations Unit’s put forward its proposal for a derogation to allow the autumn trapping of song thrush and golden plover.

On the agenda was also the discussion on hunters’ federation FKNK proposal to also allow finch trapping, a report co-authored by Joseph Lia – WBRU’s special initiatives offer.

Until July, Lia was also listed as the FKNK’s council member for live-bird trapping affairs.

In a statement, Bird Life said the WBRU’s proposal for song thrush and golden plover trapping was “an inside job by the FKNK”.

Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager, raised the organisation’s objection to the committee’s chairperson over the presentation of the proposal by former Lia in his capacity as special initiatives officer at the WBRU.

Barbara described Lia’s position as being, “too compromised to be credible”.

“To call this a mere conflict of interest does not do justice to the seriousness of the compromised impartiality of the WBRU. It seems that the pre-election deal negotiated by the FKNK has given them their own governmental body with which to implement their proposals on hunting and trapping,” he said.

BirdLife had already criticised the political appointment of staff to the new unit, which has been formed as a one-stop-shop on hunting and trapping issues, questioning the secondment of the unit’s acting head, Sergei Golovkin, along with that of Lia and former Labour MP and adviser on hunting and trapping, Bertu Pace.

Source: Maltatoday.com.mt

Roll-back of hunting curfew is ‘death sentence’ for protected birds

New 7pm curfew orchestrated by hunting sympathisers to allow hunters target migratory species that migrate at night.

BirdLife director Steve Micklewright has written to the Prime Minister over the decision to roll back a hunting curfew.

BirdLife director Steve Micklewright has written to the Prime Minister over the decision to roll back a hunting curfew.

BirdLife Malta reacted to news that the government will ‘lift’ a curfew for autumn afternoon hunting by pushing it back from 3pm to 7pm, as an act of “deregulation” aimed at dismantling the rules for the protection of birds.

In a jibe at the new Wild Birds Regulation Unit, BirdLife’s executive director said the “deregulation unit” was being staffed by hunting sympathisers, with today’s decision “clearly showing what happens when you put hunters in charge of bird conservation.”

The WBRU is staffed by former Labour MP Bertu Pace, who was the party’s main consultant on hunting and trapping before the election, and Joseph Lia – a member of hunting lobby FKNK’s executive committee. Pace is engaged on a 30-hour week contract with a remuneration of €17,566 a year.

Micklewright described the roll-back of the curfew as a “licence for the illegal killing of protected birds” apart from huntable species like turtle dove and quail, which both tend to migrate at night and are mostly hunted during the early hours of the morning. “Pushing back the curfew will therefore make no difference to most law-abiding hunters.”

“This decision clearly shows that bird conservation on Malta is not best served by the new Wild Birds Regulation Unit under the Parliamentary Secretary for Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights.”

BirdLife also sent an urgent letter to the Prime Minister asking for his direct intervention. “In our letter to the Prime Minister we call for bird conservation issues to be dealt with by the Minister for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, the decision to remove the curfew only emphasises that these issues are in the wrong hands,” Micklewright said.

BirdLife said the decision flies in the face of evidence presented to the Ornis Committee in July, that when the 3pm curfew was not in place during the first week of October when bird of prey migration is still on, BirdLife witnessed many more incidents of shooting at protected species in the afternoons compared to when the curfew was still in place in September. “This clearly shows that the 3pm curfew was effective,” conservation manager Nicholas Barbara said.

“This decision is completely useless. Having the curfew at 7pm is practically equivalent to removing it. By 7pm most birds of prey would have roosted already, after having flown at low altitude within shooting range in search of a roosting site. It is the hours before dark that are the most critical and not after sunset.”

BirdLife also revealed that the proposal for a 7pm curfew to be extended by one week was made to the Ornis Committee by the Acting Head of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, Sergei Golovkin – a former MEPA employee – who described it as, “An intermediary measure of a give and take situation.”

Nicholas Barbara added: “When he was challenged by BirdLife about the logical sense of a curfew push back, no concrete answer was given.”

BirdLife was joined by German conservationists CABS (Campaign Against Bird Slaughter) which dubbed the decision a “death sentence for protected bird species”.

In a statement, CABS said that the curfew, proven to protect endangered birds and welcomed by a wide spectrum of the Maltese population, had been “unnecessarily sacrificed to the interests of hunters and poachers.”

“Data collected by our volunteers last year show that after the end of the afternoon curfew on 30 September, afternoon poaching increased sharply,” CABS spokesperson Axel Hirschfeld said.

CABS also announced today that the organisation will be sending 40 volunteer Bird Guards to Malta and Gozo in September, to guard the roosting sites of rare and endangered migrant bird species and to monitor compliance with hunting and nature protection regulations. The camp, dubbed operation ‘Bon Voyage’, will be conducted from 13 until 30 September.

In a reaction, the government insisted that the new curfew was “in line EU regulations”.

“This fact has not been contested by anyone,” the parliamentary secretariat for animal rights said.

It insisted the government was “consistent” in wanting Maltese hunters to be treated as their European counterparts.

“There will be strict enforcement of regulations and anyone caught hunting illegally will not only be fined but will also risk losing his licence for good.”

Source: Maltatoday.com.mt

Extending hunting curfew will save more birds

Curfew prevents illegal hunters from using the cover of the open hunting season to target protected birds of prey.

Birds of prey are still the most targeted group of protected birds in Malta, sought after primarily for taxidermy.

Birds of prey are still the most targeted group of protected birds in Malta, sought after primarily for taxidermy.

BirdLife Malta said today that extending the two-week afternoon hunting curfew in autumn would be one of the best ways to save more birds of prey from illegal hunting.

The curfew prohibits hunting after 3 p.m. during the peak period for raptor (bird of prey) migration – between 15 and 30 September – and was introduced five years ago to prevent illegal hunters from using the cover of the open hunting season to target protected birds of prey as they search for roosting sites in the afternoon.

During a recent meeting of the Ornis Committee, which advises the government on bird conservation and hunting and trapping issues, BirdLife proposed an extension of the existing curfew by one week to cover the first week of October, citing evidence of increased illegal hunting of birds of prey in the afternoon during this period last year.

Explaining the need for an extension of the curfew, Nicholas Barbara, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation Manager, said: “Many birds of prey and other protected birds are still migrating in the first week of October, but they are not protected by the current curfew. Extending the curfew to cover this period would go a long way to better protecting these birds in practice, not just on paper.”

Last autumn, BirdLife Malta and CABS separately and independently recorded a threefold increase in the targeting of protected birds during the afternoon period following the lifting of the afternoon curfew on 1 October, when compared with the preceding two weeks, during which the curfew was in place.

The Ornis Committee voted down proposals by the FKNK (Federation of Hunters, Trappers and Conservationists) to remove the afternoon curfew altogether- a proposal BirdLife Malta said belied the hunting organisation’s public concern over the problem of illegal hunting, betraying their self-interested lack of concern for the considerations of wildlife protection and conservation.

The Committee did not reach consensus on other proposals put forward on the timing of the curfew, including a proposal to have the curfew pushed back to as late as 7 p.m.

“In practice, pushing the curfew back to 7 p.m. from 3 p.m. would be the same as removing it altogether, something the Ornis Committee already voted against,” said Barbara, pointing out that the vast majority of migrating raptors would already have roosted well before sunset and a curfew introduced at this time would do nothing to protect them.

Barbara expressed serious concerns about suggestions by a government representative at the Ornis meeting that increased enforcement could make up for the removal of the curfew: “Despite efforts at curtailing abuse, birds of prey are still the most targeted group of protected birds in Malta, sought after primarily for taxidermy. Increased enforcement would be best used as a measure on top of the afternoon curfew, not instead of it, giving police in the countryside a much better chance of identifying and apprehending those illegal hunters determined on shooting protected birds.”

Commenting on the proposals to Ornis, BirdLife’s executive director, Steve Micklewright, said: “Removing or pushing back the time of the afternoon curfew would be tantamount to saying ‘we are happy for more protected birds to be shot and killed by illegal hunters’. Well, we are not happy with that prospect.”

“The onus is now on the government to take a decision that reflects their zero-tolerance policy towards wildlife crime”, he said.

Source: Maltatoday.com.mt