Hunter fined €2,300 for shooting at Golden Oriole
The magistrate’s court in Valletta found Gilmour Stellini, of Xemxija, guilty of illegally shooting at a protected Golden Oriole during the 2012 spring hunting season.
Magistrate Anthony Vella, presiding, handed down the €2,300 fine, along with a one-year suspension from holding a hunting licence and the confiscation of the defendant’s shotgun.
The conviction came as a result of video evidence gathered by a BirdLife Malta Spring Watch team on April 26, 2012, at Wied ta’ Kandja, Ħandaq, and eyewitness testimony from Dutch, English and Maltese volunteers, who identified the accused in court.
Christian Debono, BirdLife Malta’s Conservation and Policy Officer said, “The video evidence showed clearly the accused shooting at a Golden Oriole. However when interviewed by the police Mr Stellini claimed that he had actually shot at a quail.”
This claim was debunked in court by experts from the Special Enforcement Branch of the Wild Birds Regulation Unit, who confirmed the bird being targeted in the video was a Golden Oriole.
Mr Stellini’s conviction, based on video evidence and eyewitness testimony in the absence of a carcass, establishes a strong precedent for cases where protected birds have been targeted.
“We’re very pleased with the outcome of the case,” said Mr Debono. “Not only does it highlight the value of video evidence in prosecuting the illegal shooting of protected birds, it shows that the police can successfully prosecute for the intent to shoot a protected bird, even if the bird may not have been killed.”
“But successful prosecutions like this remain rare. Efforts now need to be focused on improving the detection rate of these incidents and in gathering sufficient evidence to prosecute the culprits. Such tasks can only be properly undertaken by a specially trained and equipped wildlife crime unit.”
During the 2012 spring hunting season the police reported only three confirmed cases of shooting at protected birds, while BirdLife Malta recorded 72 such incidents in the same period. 17 of these involved the targeting of Golden Orioles.
“Illegal shooting of protected species remains a serious and widespread problem in Malta, with rare and threatened birds like Pallid Harriers falling victim to illegal hunting when they should be making their way to their breeding grounds in Europe. The task of preventing the killing of these protected birds is only made more difficult by the opening of a spring hunting season for Turtle Doves and Quail- themselves threatened species in Europe,” said Mr Debono.
As a partner in the Coalition for the Abolition of Spring Hunting, BirdLife Malta is helping to collect signatures for a petition to hold a public referendum on the future of spring hunting in Malta.