In Malta, wildlife crime is dealt with as one of several responsibilities of the Administrative Law Enforcement unit (ALE). The ALE are severely under-resourced and under-staffed for dealing with such a widespread and serious problem while carrying out other duties. There are around 25 officers to deal with incidents in Malta and Gozo, and in summer these officers are restricted mainly to beach patrols. During peak migration periods, ALE have between two and five cars to cover Malta and Gozo.
Without police or conservationists present in the area, raptors flying low over Malta will definitely be shot down.
In 2008 and 2009, the Police Commissioner sent out an order for district police to also deal with illegal hunting incidents. While this move is welcome, the majority of the district police are not sufficiently trained to deal with this type of crime and in many cases do not know what is or isn’t illegal, nor how to deal with wildlife crime scenes. They are neither given proper training nor education on the importance of protecting wild life and Malta’s EU obligations in this regard. In certain areas where poaching is rampant, the district police either do not respond to calls or poachers are seen to leave the area shortly after the incidence is reported to the police.
Furthermore, the BirdLife Malta office receives numerous reports of illegal hunting and trapping from members of the public and law-abiding hunters who are reluctant to pass the information on to the police. The reasons given are either that the police will not respond to their reports, or that they know that there are many hunters within the police force and that they do not feel that the police will arrest these individuals. In some cases, members of the public claim that the poachers themselves are police or are relatives of the police. While this cannot normally be verified, on the 18th of April 2008, a BirdLife Malta Spring Watch team in Gozo filmed two poachers hunting in the closed season and wearing balaclavas to conceal their identity. When the poachers were apprehended, one was identified as a policeman from Malta. The police officer was last year convicted thanks to BirdLife Malta evidence.