BirdLife wants 320% increase in hunting prohibited land
BirdLife Malta has proposed increasing the area of countryside where hunting and trapping is prohibited increased by more than 320%, from 1,686 hectares to 5,455 hectares.
The NGO published a map that illustrates the increase in the area of countryside that would be safely accessible to the public if Malta’s nature protection areas were designated as “no-hunting zones”. The release of the map coincides with the launch of the second banner in BirdLife’s “Your Voice Counts” campaign, which asks members of the public to demand action from politicians on wildlife and countryside issues.
The map shows Malta and Gozo’s Natura 2000 protected sites, which BirdLife Malta argued should be designated as no-hunting areas along with the areas in Malta and Gozo currently designated as bird sanctuaries, where hunting and trapping are prohibited. These sanctuaries amount to just 5% of the land area of the Maltese islands, the largest such “sanctuary” being Malta International Airport. Other areas designated as bird sanctuaries include the Marsa Golf Course and Ta’ Qali Airfield. 15% of the land area of the Maltese Islands is currently protected as Natura 2000 sites due to their international importance for biodiversity.
Almost all of these protected nature areas are (or should be) accessible to the public, either by public roads and footpaths, or as nature parks and reserves BirdLife Malta’s Executive Director Steve Micklewright added. They have been created to protect important habitats, flora and fauna, including birds, while allowing people to make use of the sites for recreation and education.
Yet, although one third of these protected nature areas have been given their protected status often because of their importance to wild birds, he explained. “In 85% of Malta and Gozo’s Natura 2000 sites, the practices of shooting and trapping wild birds continue to be permitted despite the obvious harm these activities inflict on wildlife and biodiversity, not to mention the danger they pose when practiced in close proximity to other members of the public”.
BirdLife this morning also launched the second banner in its “Your Voice Counts” campaign. The banner depicts Lawrence Gonzi and Joseph Muscat, gagged with stickers bearing the letters RTO over their mouths. The banner refers to the proliferation of illegal signs and graffiti in the Maltese countryside proclaiming public areas to be “Private” or “Riservato” and the leaders’ apparent unwillingness or inability to speak about this and other issues relating to wildlife and the countryside in their election campaigns, Micklewright argued.
In a statement to the media Steve Micklewright said, “For years hunters and trappers have been allowed to rule the roost in the Maltese countryside. Successive Governments, both Labour and Nationalist, have not only turned a blind eye to illegal occupation, development and restriction of public access, but have actually defended and even rewarded such activities by Malta’s hunters and trappers by creating “hunting reserves” on public land.”
As part of its “Your Voice Counts” campaign, BirdLife is asking the public to demand an end to the illegal occupation of the countryside and the banning of hunting and trapping in “nature protection areas” and for all sites that meet the criteria to be given protected status.
Find out more about BirdLife Malta’s “Your Voice Counts” campaign at www.birdlifemalta.org