Malta has the world's highest density of hunters. On just 360 square kilometers of archipelago, about 15,000 hunters possess an hunting licence. During the legal hunting season, many poachers use the opportunity to also kill protected migratory birds. Herons, storks, honey buzzards, harriers, eagles and other rare big birds that are prized as stuffed trophies are hit especially hard by these illegal activities. Besides shooting birds of prey and other large birds, the illegal catching of finches and shore birds is wide-spread.
In Spring 2012 a new campaign was launched in an attempt to combat this poaching. From 21 to 30 April, 14 voluntary bird protectors from Germany, Italy, Great Britain, the Czech Republic and Malta took part. As always, the entire bird protection camp was run in close coordination and cooperation with the Maltese environmental police ALE and Birdlife Malta. The objective of this campaign was to prevent the shooting of birds of prey through the presence of our staff at important resting places and migratory corridors, and to collect evidence of illegal shootings and active traps. For the most part the evidence consists of video recordings and photos, which are handed over on USB sticks to the local police so they can institute further steps such as confiscating decoys, nets and rifles.
In order to film poachers and trapping areas at great distance while remaining unobserved, in Spring 2012 the committee used a brand new ZEISS Victory Photoscope 85 T* FL with built-in photo and video camera for the first time. Carl Zeiss provided the device especially for this campaign, and it was in use for several hours each day. The primary task was to search the countryside for active traps and poachers on the go with weapons during the close season.
Activities took place in the early mornings and in the evenings. All teams and members of the police force who were allowed to work with the ZEISS Victory PhotoScope were impressed by its fantastic image sharpness. It was possible to recognize number plates and faces, even in poor light and at great distances. All teams thought that the possibility of recording the image seen through the eyepiece or built-in mini-screen in real time was the absolute hightlight. If you've ever tried to adjust a video camera properly in front of the eyepiece of an "analogue" spotting scope under stress and time pressure, you can imagine the incredible relief felt when all you need to do is press a button to be sure of a perfect result.
Conclusion: The ZEISS PhotoScope is a powerful tool in the fight against migratory bird poaching on Malta. Thanks to the video recordings made with the spotting scope, it was possible to identify several poachers and two illegal traps, and to convict the offenders with hard evidence. The ensuing police operations resulted in the confiscation of roughly a dozen live decoys, two approximately 40 metre-long nets, and at least two rifles.
Carl Zeiss has our heartfelt gratitude for providing the ZEISS Victory PhotoScope 85 T* FL in Spring 2012 for our Bird Protection Camp on Malta.
We are grateful for the provision of the ZEISS Victory PhotoScope 85 T* FL for our birds protection center on Malta, in spring 2012.