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As part of the commemoration of the Federation for Hunting and Conservation – Malta (FKNK) 50th anniversary, on 23 and 24 May 2023, a record number of 750 turtle doves were released into the wild.

These birds had been bred, fledged and raised in captivity as part of the FKNK ongoing project “Turtle Doves Captive Breeding and Release into the Wild”. On 23 May, several pupils who attend the Gozo College Sannat Primary & Special Unit, where the FKNK has an auxiliary aviary of its project, which aviary is managed by College teachers, released the first number of turtle doves, fledglings of the College aviary. The FKNK then released a much bigger number of birds on 24 May from Malta, which turtle doves had been captive-bred in the project’s main aviary at Għammieri. This will be the third year in succession when in the coming days the FKNK will also release six GPS tagged turtle doves.

The project is partly financed by the Wild Birds Conservation Fund and enjoys the support and handsome donations of organisations within the FKNK and several individual FKNK members, while the purchase of the GPS tags has been sponsored by a local private enterprise.

The project forms part of FKNK initiatives and has also had a significant bearing on the reopening of the traditional turtle dove spring hunting season in 2022 and 2023 following a five-year respective moratorium.

Results from 3 GPS tagged birds that were released in 2021 (1) and 2022 (2), indicate that the number of so termed “reference population countries” should also include Bulgaria and Kosovo. Moreover, the project has not only achieved one of its main objectives, “the compensatory measure”, but even surpassed it, as since the project’s launch in 2017 up to 2022, the project has released over 2800 birds, when the official bag records of turtle doves during the same period of years stands at 2134 harvested turtle doves.

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