Chris Packham and St Albans cameraman film mass shooting of birds in Malta

PUBLISHED: 07:35 26 April 2014 | UPDATED: 07:35 26 April 2014

St Albans wildlife photographer Luke Massey in Malta with Chris Packham (left)

St Albans wildlife photographer Luke Massey in Malta with Chris Packham (left)

photo supplied

A St Albans wildlife photographer has joined television presenter and naturalist Chris Packham in Malta, where both are campaigning against the annual “massacre” of migratory birds.

However Luke Massey’s and Chris’s trip to the island has resulted in heated arguments with police and hunters, and seen one campaigner arrested.

Twenty-two-year-old Luke, who is also filming the controversial shooting, said: “Hunters are legally allowed to shoot quail and turtle dove on migration during the spring season. However, hunters also shoot down other migratory birds such as marsh harriers, kestrels, eagles and many other species.

“I’m out in Malta filming an online series with Chris Packham, and we are documenting the controversial spring hunting season as well as the all-round illegal hunting situation.”

Chris has for many years lobbied the UK’s bird charities to campaign to raise awareness of the “slaughter” of migrant birds on Malta.

He said that while migratory birds are, “like national treasures when they get to the UK, here they are targets.”

According to Chris’s website “Malta massacre on migration” he has also tried, without success, to “stimulate television programme makers to cover the issue” - a failure which he labels a, “sad reflection of our complacent and risk-adverse times”.

Chris said that he had run out of patience and with three colleagues, including Luke, and the support of BirdLife Malta, he had formed an independent production team making a nightly video diary of the days’ events on the island.

On one of the videos, Chris shows Malta’s shooting hides, roughly built with blocks, which number in their “hundreds if not thousands on the island, littered with empty cartridges”.

Chris adds that he would rather people watched birds from the hides than kill them as Malta, “could be an ornithological nirvana”.

On one video blog police are shown saying they took away an alleged hunter’s gun and ammunition.

Chris’s production team encounters a marksman with his dog, carrying a little bittern in its mouth.

But the hunter leaves the scene when the police are called and a campaigner based in Malta is then arrested for allegedly filming officers.

Speaking from the island yesterday (Friday) Chris told the Herts Ad: “I want people to watch the videos, but I don’t want them to boycott Malta because the vast majority of Maltese are also against this.”

He said he had been stunned by the “sheer number” of birds being shot.

Chris went on: “They are shooting anything from swifts to swallows - they are just target practice. In the UK, we love birds, and this is very distressing.”

He said the hunting had an impact on the number of birds flying on to Britain.

Luke said the production team was spending two weeks on the island.

He added: “On one reserve, hunters rule by intimidation. When we try and film there, they threaten to call the police and push the camera away. I’m not worried about getting arrested though.”

Luke said he was concerned about campaigners in Malta, who had previously had the support of police, being escorted from reserves where hunting is being carried out.

He added: “There have been 370 species of birds recorded in Malta, including birds such as swallows, on their way to Britain.

“I can’t comprehend why people want to have them stuffed and put on their mantelpiece.”

Luke said he was upset seeing the law being “flouted” but had hopes for an about-turn from the Maltese government.

A recent report in Malta Today says The Coalition Against Spring Hunting is planning to hold a spring hunting referendum in March 2015, but this has annoyed a hunters’ lobby group which has labelled the move as a “dangerous precedent for minorities”.

The Mediterranean island has an exemption from the EU Birds Directive, allowing local hunters to shoot quail and turtle doves during spring migration.

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