Birding Among Bullets In Malta

Holy Crap, I was sent a trailer for Birds, Bins, and Bullets a documentary about Eurpoeans fighting back against the illegal hunting of migrating birds in Malta.  Here is the trailer: [youtube][/youtube]

You can watch an excerpt of this distrubing documentary here.  It's incredible to see these European birders, going right into the heart of the poaching area to try and stop this.  You may be wondering why you should care about some small island off the coast of Italy should be of any concern to you--it's an important flyover for many migratory species of European birds.  I'm not against hunting, but many of these birds are protected and the poachers are just shooting them, not taking the meat--that I don't like.

This is not unlike the fight that Audubon first faced to stop the Christmas Bird Hunt or the days of shooting hawks for sport in the fall along places like Hawk Ridge, MN or Hawk Mountain, PA.

Since Malta joined the EU, they've been gradually shifting the hunting laws to fall more in line with the rest of the union, however the illegal hunting still goes on (if you watched the trailer, you saw the protest against the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds being protested by the people who still wanted to poach the protected birds).  This year, the Maltese Government, feeling the pressure, has announced that there will be no 2009 spring hunting season, but will that stop a poacher who still feels it is their right?

So, watching this, one might think, "Perhaps boycotting Malta is the best thing?" Well, that's not going to stop the shooting.  Bird Life Malta is going to some great effort, like hosting a Spring Watch April 11 - 26.

Basically, on the camp, you are on illegal hunting surveillance and migration monitoring--this is not your ordinary listing trip.  They also offer a Raptor Camp in the fall with similar objectives.  Reading about the previous camps on the website, it sounds like it's a combination of reward, frustration and danger.  Last year, some participants have their windshield shot out and tires slashed, but on the other hand, much of the illegal hunting was curtailed and some poacher arrested.

It's an interesting situation and really makes one wonder if birders can make a difference.  They certainly are struggling to in Europe.