They kill doves on Gozo.
As on Malta.
Any bird is a target. Tiny songbirds fall from the sky.
On a walk around the coast
…exclaiming at the diversity of plants, arthropods and lizards
…pausing at the summits of hills to delight in a turquoise sea under an azure sky
I notice an armchair, reached via a few hand-hewn steps, nestling beneath a corrugated shelter. It overlooks a small cleared area.
This part of Gozo is full of plots. Everyone, it seems, grows something: lemons, olives, cabbages, courgettes, onions, prickly pears, figs – the island is a permaculturist’s dream.
Mayhap this chair, this handy nook, is where the farmer takes 40 winks. A well-earned break from toiling in the heat.
What a pleasing pastoral scene!
But have a closer look…
into something altogether more sinister.
Look there says my friend and guide. See those Y shaped metal posts fixed into the ground? They attach nets to those posts, to trap birds in. Sometimes, they capture a song bird and put it in a cage, about this big (uses hands to indicate ridiculously tiny size) and its cries lure other birds to their deaths.
I try to pull up the posts. They’re too firmly rooted.
It doesn’t look as though this one’s been used in a while reassures my friend.
Some of this sport is legal. Most of it isn’t.
Anything can be prey.
On our walk we find two shot birds.
A pure white pigeon – wearing a ring; likely a racer that didn’t make it home – and a sparrow. Neither of these birds is of value to a hunter. Too common. Killed in error.
Rare birds are the thing.
Get them while you can! Quickly now, before they’re gone!
Or colourful birds, that look good stuffed.
Herons, raptors, spoonbills.
Most of the birds to fall from the skies are migrating. On their way to breed.
They’ll never reach their destination.
Nests will never be built. Eggs never laid.
And so are species decimated.
So much death. Most of it during a two week hunting window.
Massacre over Malta
Find out more/Take action
Chris Packham (who started the hashtag #WhereDovesDie when covering the massacre this year)
Write to the Maltese embassy in the UK:
HE Norman Hamilton
The High Commissioner
High Commission of Malta
London W1J 0LE