BirdLife Malta uses Clue to protect migrating birds from illegal hunting
BirdLife Malta, set up in 1962, is one of the oldest conservation groups in the country. The group is focused on the conservation of wild birds, disrupting illegal hunting and trapping, and rehabilitating injured birds.
Malta is a natural stop-over point for birds migrating from Africa to European breeding grounds in the central Mediterranean. Wildlife crime here poses a risk to both native and transient bird species. Sadly, illegal hunting and trapping are commonplace.
Illegal hunters target species such as eagles, flamingos, and storks for the lucrative taxidermy trade. Finches are trapped for the pet trade and cross-bred to create “hybrids” with novel songs and plumage.
Using Clue, BirdLife Malta can collaborate more effectively with law enforcement to drive better outcomes from investigations, while improving public awareness to help prevent wildlife crime from taking place.
In terms of investigations, we are the central point of reference for members of the public. When they are encountering anything that has to do with illegal hunting or trapping, whether that’s finding a shot bird or encountering a trapping site, they contact us.
The ‘small island’ challenge to conservation
BirdLife Malta faces several unique challenges in protecting bird populations on the island from wildlife crime.
- The small size of the island population means that many locals are reluctant to report wildlife crime to the police for fear of retribution.
- While the local police are responsive to reports of wildlife crime, they have limited resources and can be hampered by island geography and lack of knowledge of wildlife.
- In certain cases, illegal trappers are not aware that their activity constitutes a wildlife crime, and the government can be slow to act without public pressure.
Collaboration with the Malta Police Force
BirdLife Malta collaborates with the police to pursue its own investigations using witness reports and volunteer surveillance, with the aid of software and technology.
The group can gather evidence in Clue, where connections can be drawn between past incidents and cases to uncover new intelligence. The police force’s Environmental Protection Unit can then dispatch their limited resources more effectively, confident in BirdLife Malta’s credibility for investigations into wildlife crime.
This collaborative approach has achieved significant progress in protecting bird species in Malta. Thanks to its investigative work, BirdLife Malta has succeeded in achieving lifetime hunting license suspensions and newly designated conservation areas.
“Our team objective is to clamp down on the illegal killing of birds. Clue will help us do this. We will be able to look at Malta region-by-region and identify hotspot areas where most birds are being found or where most incidents are reported. We can identify why that is and focus our monitoring of these areas.”
Extracting insights from data
As an established conservation group, BirdLife Malta also holds valuable paper-based information and intelligence going back decades. Using Clue, this information and intelligence can be centralised to draw connections between past reports and build stronger cases.
Additionally, data relating to injured birds at its rehabilitation centre can supply insight into seasonal hunting trends and hotspots, helping the group to organise and distribute its seasonal volunteer conservationists more effectively.
Driving public awareness
But this data can also support BirdLife Malta’s public awareness campaigns.
Clue can enable the group to quickly produce reports and recall materials for information campaigns, helping to educate locals and visitors about types of activity that constitutes wildlife crime and its scale and impact on local and overseas ecology.
The outcome of better public awareness is more pressure on the government to condemn illegal hunting and designate and enforce conservation efforts in Malta.