Maltese hunters prepare to shoot migrant birds, but each year conservationists increase the pressure to stop them.

Protecting the Mediterranean’s migratory birds

After Birdfair, the fight goes on to protect the illegally hunted migratory songbirds of the Mediterranean fly-way.

During their twice-annual migration, birds face two natural hurdles along the Africa-Eurasia Fly-way: the Mediterranean Sea and the Sahara desert. Even if they manage to cross those, many succumb to man-made dangers. In the first-ever assessment of the scope and scale of illegal killing in the Mediterranean by BirdLife International, it was found that 12-36 million birds per year, mainly songbirds, may be killed illegally by shooters and trappers.

Other serious threats to migratory birds come from power lines and wind turbines (which lead to collisions and electrocutions), and from the loss and degradation of crucial feeding and resting sites. Species such as European Turtle Dove, Black-tailed Godwit and Meadow Pipit are declining. With climate change predicted to increase desertification in the Sahel region of Africa, trans-Saharan migrants will increasingly struggle to survive.

BirdLife and its national partner organisations have developed a strategy for the African-Eurasian fly-way in order to give migratory birds a better future by 2020, and to stimulate the study and awareness of the magnitude and beauty of migratory birds. Part of this strategy is the development of a growing network of people and organisations that can share expertise and co-ordinate Mediterranean-scale initiatives to look after the birds. The Capacity Development for Flyway Conservation in the Mediterranean initiative, funded by the MAVA Foundation, is establishing a Mediterranean Fly-way Conservation Network involving over 20 NGOs.

In its second phase from 2015-2017, the project will strengthen a dynamic NGO network to work with local people, governments, and the international community. Conservation action is already underway in certain countries as part of the project.

For example, BirdLife Cyprus is lobbying its government to endorse the first national plan put together by all stakeholders to end illegal trapping of songbirds. “We are a little island besieged by illegal trappers, so to know you are not alone is really important,” says Martin Hellicar, research co-ordinator at BirdLife Cyprus.

In Montenegro, hunting bans have been secured for two important stop-over sites for migrants in the Balkans: Sasko Lake and Ulcinj Salina. In Croatia, Association BIOM lobbied against the development of an airport on the feeding ground of the country’s only Lesser Kestrel colony, leading local politicians to abandon the idea. In Macedonia, the Macedonian Ecological Society is developing a film to promote migratory bird conservation.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon is implementing a responsible hunting training course for people wanting to acquire the national hunting license. The organisation is also piloting ‘Responsible Hunting Areas’ in the country to promote regulated and sustainable hunting. BirdLife’s Tunisian Partner, Association Les Amis des Oiseaux, celebrated World Migratory Bird Day under the theme ‘Energy – make it bird friendly’.

The Maltese witnessed a historic referendum in April 2015 to abolish spring hunting, during which BirdLife Malta and a coalition of NGOs led a national anti-spring hunting campaign. Although the referendum against hunting was lost by less than 1 per cent, it demonstrated that almost half the population wish to see spring hunting stopped.

BirdLife is also raising national and international awareness of the illegal killing of birds through a Pan-Mediterranean scientific review and report, funded by an anonymous donor.
Support BirdLife’s Keeping the Flyway Safe appeal by donating here.


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