An endangered Egyptian vulture that was likely shot down over Dingli cost €50,000 to produce and reintroduce into the wild, according to the Vulture Conservation Foundation.
The bird, named Isabel, was being tracked as it went off the radar earlier this week, and is believed to have been shot by local hunters.
In a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela, the foundation, together with CERM Endangered Raptors Centre, explained how five endangered vultures were released from a captive breeding programme in Italy earlier this year.
“Unfortunately, our joint efforts to protect the last Egyptian Vultures are jeopardised by the reckless attitude of Maltese shooters, which also compromise Malta’s legal obligations under the EU Birds Directive,” they wrote.
There are only around 1,600 pairs of Egyptian Vultures left in Europe, of which just 10 pairs in Italy. Of all European vultures, the Egyptian Vulture is the only species that is not increasing.
Since 1995, €70 million has been invested in LIFE projects related to this species by the EU, resulting in 25 projects aiming to save the bird.
The LIFE Egyptian Vulture project runs the captive breeding programme in Italy and helps the birds start their migration to Africa. Two of the vultures are now in Tunisia, but the two others took the eastern route and reached Malta.
While both birds that passed by Malta got shot, one luckily managed to escape and reach Libya. The other one, Isabel, was unfortunately very likely to be shot dead. “Data from the tag suggests that it was shot and killed, and most probably the body taken away, and the tag destroyed.”
“It is unconceivable that in the year 2021 rogue people are allowed to shoot such birds illegally with impunity. We demand swift action to prevent further such incidents to occur,” the letter concludes.
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