Impacts on Target Species
| Source: BirdLife Malta|
Of the 7 finch species targeted by trappers, 6 have bred historically in Malta. However, as trapping became more intensive fewer of these birds continued to breed here. Today the species have either been reduced to sporadic and irregular breeders, or no longer breed at all in the Maltese islands.
Many of these species, such as the Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Common Chaffinch, are common garden birds in other European countries. Malta therefore has the dubious distinction of being the only European country that does not have a viable population of breeding finches. It isn’t only larger countries that have populations of breeding finches but also many of the central Mediterranean islands including Sicily and the much smaller islands of Lampedusa, Pantellaria and Linosa that also have breeding finch populations.
| Source: Dick Jeeves.|
Malta, like the other central Mediterranean islands, has suitable habitat, food and water for these species to breed and raise their young. Every year, a few pairs of finches do try to breed in the Maltese islands and despite the high levels of illegal trapping some even succeed. If trapping in the Maltese islands stops, and the law is strictly enforced, Malta can have songbirds like every other country in Europe.
Impacts on other Fauna and Flora
Trappers prepare their trapping sites by removing vegetation using mechanical cutters, burning or toxic herbicides. In many cases soil, sand or gravel is then dumped on the land to create a level surface on which nets can be laid. This practice scars the land and in fact, trapping sites can easily be seen from the air or satellite images.
| Large trapping sites destroy a lot of vegetation. Source: Birdlife Malta.|
Many trapping sites are situated in some of the richest areas for biodiversity on the Maltese islands, including Natura 2000 sites. Many trapping sites are also illegally built in Special Areas of Conservation, where the act of destroying protected habitat is against international law. The destruction of habitat impacts on other species of flora and fauna, resulting in a loss of biodiversity, further impoverishing our countryside.
| Birds and other animals die in unattended trappers nets. Source: BirdLife Malta.|
Apart from loss of habitat, wildlife is also harmed by nets which are often left unattended on the ground overnight, out of season, or after being abandoned. This exposes animals and birds to the risk of getting entangled in the nets and suffering a slow death of starvation or exposure.
The damage trapping can cause to the environment is one of the reasons trapping is banned in EU member states under the Birds Directive.