This evening (3/2/03) the BBC in the south-east broadcast a programme,
'Inside Out', on how the illegal bird trade in the UK is, in part at least,
fuelled by the Maltese bird trade. I have appended details from their
website below. What isn't made clear from this digest is how one Maltese
bird trapper was caught red-handed forcing rings on 500 birds caught
illegally in the UK (Sittingbourne, Kent). The RSPB reckoned he'd shipped
some 25,000 to Malta - apparently making a handsome profit. However, he
fled back to Malta before brought to court to face these charges. The
programme showed footage of the notorious bird market in Valletta where
locals were very quick to stop open filming - clearly they don't want us to
know what they're up to. Covert filming showed many clearly distressed
birds of wild origin. How many came from the UK? One clue may be in the
name of a now closed shop to which Maltese 'gentleman' from Sittingbourne
sent 'his' birds - with arrogant frankness it was called 'British Finch and
Garden Centre'. An RSPCA official opined that thousands of UK birds were
being illegally trapped to support this cruel trade. Presumably the leeway
the generosity of the EU have given Malta time to conform to EU laws will do
little more than allowing these criminals to refine and perfect their
network of illegal capture of our birds,
ILLEGAL BIRD TRAPPING
CAGED | Song birds are being trapped and sold in Malta Holiday makers are
not the only Brits to be found abroad. Our native song birds are being
trapped and traded in Malta. 'Inside Out' goes on the trial of the bird
A typical wet and windy British winter yet again, but at least there's the
thought of spring sunshine and birdsong to look forward to - or maybe not.
The domestic British garden bird is in decline and in Kent the problem is
not helped by the illegal bird trapping which is taking place.
Inside Out's Paul Ross goes undercover to expose the illegal trapping and
trading of British song birds.
Song birds for pets
A caged singing bird is a popular pet in Malta
Malta, popular holiday destination and home to 350,000 people, some of whom
swap the traditional cat for a caged song bird as the family pet. Such a
popular commodity, the song birds in Malta have been over-hunted and numbers
are now seriously low. Rather than legally breeding song birds in captivity,
many are choosing a far cheaper, but altogether crueller method of
replenishing stocks. Their destination? Kent.
"We consider Kent to be one of the major centres of this trade. We've had a
number of convictions over the past few years involving hundreds of birds,
worth hundreds of thousands of pounds," explains RCPCA officer Martin Daley.
Brutal trapping methods
The methods the trappers employ to capture the birds can cause injury and
distress, whilst almost half of the birds will be injured or die during
The chardonneray trap uses a caged bird to lure another one in
One method of trapping is the Japanese mist net, the use of which is only
allowed with a licence. Removing the birds from the net is a tricky
business, but if a trapper is catching 20 birds at a time, then a handful
would be considered an acceptable loss.
Another method is the chardonneray trap. This method uses a captured bird as
bait, its song attracts a fellow bird who is encouraged to sit on the perch
and trigger the trap.
A further and even more brutal method involves the use of bird lime. The
lime is painted onto trees and a caged bird or tape recording of birdsong is
used as bait. When a bird lands on the branch, it gets stuck to the lime.
The RSPCA can prosecute trappers under the Protection of the Wildlife and
Countryside Act. Punishments range from £5,000 in fines, to six months in
prison. However bird trappers it seems, can be difficult to track down and
many have employed various tricks in order to pass their birds off as
Birds that have been captured from the wild show signs of stress
One such trick is ringing the bird's leg, which should be done when they are
just three days old. Most of the birds caught by trappers are much older and
forcing a ring onto a thicker leg, can cause serious injury.
An uphill struggle
Faced with a strong hunting and bird trade lobby, the Maltese government are
doing very little. In fact, ahead of joining the European Union, they have
persuaded Brussels to allow the trade to continue in Malta for another four
The situation may seem impossible, but Martin and the rest of the RSPCA will
continue the fight and for that, the British public and British song bird
are grateful. If you have any suspicions or information about bird trapping
activity, the RSPCA would like to hear from you. Call them on this number
08705 555 999.
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