In the never winding down issue of illegal hunting in Malta, we get yet another atrocious act of massacre of protected bird species – with a twist. Several species of eagles were shot at and gunned down over THREE CONSECUTIVE DAYS in protected areas. Just one felon has been apprehended, with information surfacing that exposes a somewhat layer of intrigue and perversion in the hunting community.
The casualties for this ‘eagle-cide’ include 14 individuals of booted eagle (Aquila pennata) and short-toed eagles (Circaetus gallicus). The incidents happened across protected areas in both Malta and Gozo, most notably Buskett – but we already know how incredibly redundant such environmental terms are in Malta.
I have recently been binging on the AMC tv show Breaking Bad, a show based on the drug scene in the southwest of the US and the bordering northern Mexican regions. Much is mentioned of ‘The Cartel’ (or the ‘Mexican Cartel’), which refers to a criminal organisation that operates in the business of drug trafficking. In the show, the cartel is showed as operating using people at different levels of the organisation, with insiders being infiltrated inside the government as spies and informants.
This level of secrecy and set up in Breaking Bad got me thinking at how similar it is to Malta’s hunting community. As far fetched and totally ludicrous as it may sound, I cannot help by draw some very interesting comparisons between the two:
- Both deal in the trafficking of goods (one does drugs, the other does illicit hunting paraphernalia such as weapons, ammunition, birds and so on)
- Both tend to operate in plain sight – it is undeniable that this eagle massacre shows at how incompetent and useless the Maltese police force is, I mean come on – three consecutive incidents in the same area involving the same birds. How hard is it survey an area 30 ha big?
- Both have or may have inside information – this is merely simple mathematics: if the hunting community (includes hunters and families), are said to be 30,000 strong, there is an extremely high possibility that they have close ties with the authorities
- Both go through extraordinary measures to hide the evidence – while the cartel may be boundless in supply and methods to traffic drugs, hunters in Malta are not shy at going through extreme measures for their gunned down prizes – remember that flamingo and the getaway car?
- Their illegal acts are accompanied by other crimes – drug crimes range from murder to prostitution, human trafficking and so on. Hunters in Malta can engage in trespassing, harassment, illicit taxidermy activities (as observed by this eagle case), and also black market sale of goods!
Furthermore, as with the cartel, no matter how hard you try to arrest the main players there is always someone to take their place. This can be exemplified by the man apprehend for the eagle massacre – a 24 year old, already following in the illegal footsteps of his peers.
It is disturbing to think that as I am writing this blog post, I already know that it will fall on deaf ears and no real action will be taken by the authorities. In the hunting community, people are loyal enough to cover up and protect offenders that are encouraged by a lax and forgiving legal system that does not recognize the importance of the Maltese environment.
P.S. – I also need to reiterate something I have said several times – hunting is an environmental issue and not an animal rights one. Please send us Dr Leo Brincat and leave Roderick Galdes at home – if we put the killing of protected birds and the harm to pets and farm animals in the same portfolio, then the government is really doing its best to promote illegal hunting.