VALLETTA, Feb. 1 (Xinhua) -- A total of 62 protected birds were illegally shot and killed when flying over Malta during the autumn hunting season which ended Wednesday, BirdLife Malta said Thursday.
The season ran from the first Sept. 1, 2017 to Jan. 31, 2018, and was the worst of the last five years, said the NGO.
BirdLife Malta said it recovered 49 birds while 13 others were received or collected by the police.
A comparison of the casualties retrieved by BirdLife Malta over the past five autumn hunting seasons makes for a worrying reading and shows the return of illegal hunting practices, the NGO said.
The figures represented a reversal of a trend which had seen numbers of illegally shot birds decrease every year since 2013, it said.
Furthermore, the NGO said the police, which it described as another crucial stakeholder for enforcement, was still "very much understaffed and under-resourced" and was unable to respond to all of BirdLife Malta's reports.
BirdLife Malta CEO Mark Sultana said the figures clearly showed that when the government had decided to take a clear stand on illegalities, like it did in 2015 when the hunting season was closed prematurely, illegalities had gone down since hunters knew their abuse would not be tolerated.
The spring hunting of Turtle Dove is still subject to a moratorium and there will be no hunting permitted for this vulnerable species. The country is also awaiting a European Court of Justice sentence on bird trapping.