On the 18th May 2011, a flock of approximately 210 White Storks (Ciconia Ciconia) arrived in Malta. These huge birds, with a wingspan of around 2 metres are beloved by many. Common birds in folklore, they are characterised as the bringers of babies and are often known to nest near people, where they are welcomed as a good omen. There are stories of European farmers actually encouraging these birds by putting out old cartwheels on which they make their nests. They have also been known to nest in chimneys, which is considered good luck.
White Stork Flock - Charles Gauci
In Malta their appearance caused police, MEPA (Malta Environment and Planning Authority) environmental protection officers and BirdLife Malta staff and volunteers to rush into the countryside to protect them from illegal hunters.
The flock was immediately greeted by gunfire and split into several smaller flocks. On that first afternoon several birds were seen shot and falling from the sky, while others were hit and continued flying with gunshot injuries.
Injured White Stork, Dwejra - Ray Galea
This happened despite the police, environment protection officers, and BirdLife Malta fieldworkers following the flocks. At night BirdLife Malta volunteers watched over the flocks to prevent night shooting.
The birds had all left by the 22nd May. By this time 8 had been witnessed being shot and killed. BirdLife Malta had also received a further two dead and one injured stork, which had to be euthanized.These are just a small proportion of the injured protected birds BirdLife Malta has received this season. Visit our gallery to see just how many shot protected birds have been recieved by BirdLife Malta alone this year.
Several storks were seen flying with broken legs or damaged feathers due to gunshots. Many of these birds, too seriously injured to migrate, disappeared overnight.
The shooting on the storks was widespread and even members of the public witnessed the storks being hunted down and killed. Here is a witness account by Emanuela de Giorgio, of an incident just outside her house. She heard repeated gunfire as lead shot rained down by her home. The next morning she was greeted by a dead stork lying in her garden.
Dead Stork - Emanuela de Giorgio
Six hunters are known to have been apprehended by police, one of whom was in possession of two dead storks.
It is unknown exactly how many storks were killed during the time they were here but from of a flock of 210 birds only 87 were witnessed leaving the islands, by local birdwatchers and BirdLife staff.
This is a scenario which repeats itself every time rare birds visit the islands. The public can help stop this by:
Joining our Spring Watch and Raptor Camp events to monitor migratory birds and any illegal hunting which takes place. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Raising awareness of the situation among friends, acquaintances and local birding groups. There is a wealth of content on our website.
You can become a member of BirdLife Malta and help support our work against illegal hunting.
Lobbying your MEPs (Members of European Parliament) and the European Commission to take action to stop the illegal killing in Malta. For more information contact email@example.com