[WATCH] BirdLife: Young flamingo shot in front of tourists in Gozo

Police in manhunt to find perpetrators behind illegal shooting of young greater flamingo at Gozo’s Xwejni Salt Pans

A young greater flamingo was shot down at Gozo’s Xwejni Salt Pans in front of tourists, BirdLife Malta said.

On Wednesday afternoon a young Greater Flamingo alighted on the rocks in Xwejni Gozo, probably to rest from the bad weather out at sea.

“While people were enjoying this beautiful sight, a person was seen shooting it down and carrying the Flamingo into a vehicle before leaving the site. The driver is understood to have aided the hunter to escape from the area,” the NGO said.

Information that was reported to BirdLife Malta was handed over to the Gozo Police who are investigating this incident. It is understood that the police are undergoing searches on identified persons.

“Gozo has become a mecca of illegalities as bad as Miżieb and l-Aħrax and our hope is that the enforcement authorities take the situation seriously. We are also hoping that the public gives a hand in reporting similar incidents by sending all the information in a timely manner to us and the police. Such incidents in Gozo give us a clear indication that we need to start being more present on this island,” CEO Mark Sultana said.

“The bird migration season has started and as has happened every year, a number of protected birds – even during closed season – end up being targeted by hunters who disregard the law, and are a far cry from the conservationists or scientists they try to portray themselves to be,” Head of Conservation Nicholas Barbara added.

The 2023 autumn hunting season kicks off tomorrow and will run for five whole months until 31st January 2024.

The NGO reiterated its call to the general public to report any illegalities immediately to the police on 119, asking to be transferred through to the Environmental Protection Unit (EPU). BirdLife Malta can also be reached on 2134 7645 or on the emergency (out of office hours) number 7925 5697.

Environmental criminals enjoy impunity in Gozo – Malta Ranger Unit

Following the incident, the Malta Ranger Unit (MRU) called on government to immediately ook into the fact that Gozo has no Environmental Protection Unit Police, although the Minister of Gozo has the Wild Bird Regulations as part of his portfolio. MRU has on several times highlighted this issue with decision-makers without any reaction.

“As it stands today, environmental criminals enjoy full impunity. This flamingo was shot down in front of tourists in broad daylight!” it said.

It said any statistics regarding poaching and hunting illegalities in Gozo should not be counted on, since they won't reflect the reality without any environmental protection unit police officer on the island.

“All NGOs working with monitoring environmental illegalities are aware of the presence of such illegalities, but face an issue when reporting ongoing crime (unlike in Malta where EPU is present and very efficient),” the statement read. “MRU' Rangers will this autumn increase their number of Rangers as well as have fully trained anti-poaching volunteer Rangers on the field to monitor poaching in Malta and Gozo. All crimes documented will be reported to the Malta Police.”