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Malta: a Small Island with a Big Heart
International Animal Rescue (Malta)
IVU News 2-97

maltaThe Malta branch of International Animal Rescue has achieved both national and international recognition. At home, their concerns have ranged from opposition to hunting and shooting to protection of marine mammals and the investigation of illegal imports and inadequate sanctuaries. Abroad, they have participated in international campaigns and have spent a lot of time sharing information and know-how with groups as far afield as Peru, Japan, the United States and Cyprus. Such has been the progress achieved that the society was chosen to co-ordinate arrangements for a film about birds in Malta as part of the popular UK television series, Absolutely Animals.

A major problem has been the islands position on a number of bird migration routes and the appalling losses caused by shooting and netting vast numbers of birds. The situation has been exacerbated by the new Governments relaxation of the regulations after only three years in operation. The virtual doubling of the number of species allowed to be trapped and of the period during which wild birds may be killed has meant that vast numbers of birds are being killed just before the breeding season so that populations cannot make up their numbers. While the stringent regulations of 1993 allowed 203 days shooting per year, the new amendments allow an incredible 356 days, resulting in year-long carnage and considerable damage to species numbers.

Not content with campaigning against the slaughter of birds within Malta, the IAR has pursued hunters to Egypt where shady tour operators organise the destruction of protected species. Egyptian attempts to regulate hunting by foreigners and to prevent the bringing of guns into the country by tourists worked for only a short while, as the visiting hunters soon learned to leave their weapons with amenable local contacts. It is to be hoped that co-operation between the two countries and pressure from the I.A.R. will put an end to this damaging trade.

Another nasty business uncovered by the I.A.R. has been the illegal importation of protected species and a number of prosecutions have been achieved, included two-year suspended jail sentences for the smuggling of tortoises and terrapins from Libya. As well as investigating and exposing the live trade, the I.A.R. also keeps a close watch on the collection and sale of stuffed animals both in Malta and abroad.

maltaAt sea, too, those intent on smuggling or killing protected species will have to look out because the police will be after them in a very fast boat donated by International Animal Rescue and presented to them by the Malta branch. Before the new boat arrived, the police were at a constant disadvantage in terms of speed and ability to face rough weather in pursuing the criminals. The Malta branch also helped the police to secure the prosecution of three fisherman after a protected Rissos dolphin was wounded and brought ashore illegally. Sadly, the dolphin itself did not survive. The Faroese football team also came up against the I.A.R. after winning their first world cup qualifying match. Their hotel was picketed by peaceful protesters against the slaughter of pilot whales, armed only with an inflatable whale and dolphin, but when a Faroese supporter approached a young demonstrator brandishing a knife and proceeded to slash the inflatable dolphin the Maltese police intervened and confined the Faroese contingent to their hotel, depriving them of the opportunity for wild celebrations in the town. During the course of the demonstration, many tourists expressed their support and some even joined the protesters.

Investigations of inadequate animal shelters continue and the I.A.R. is currently helping the owner of a horse sanctuary to bring the premises up to standard. The I.A.R. is also collaborating with wildlife hospitals abroad, including one in the UK and another in Sicily, in the raising of orphaned animals and birds and their return to the wild. The sleep deprivation involved is equalled only by the satisfaction of seeing a wild creature restored to health and returned to the wild.

Finally, a lending library service unique of its kind has been set up by the I.A.R. after constant pleas from students and others for environmental material. If anyone can spare any books, videos, photographs, reports, copies of laws and conventions or other material relating to animal issues and the environment, please send them to the I.A.R. at 10 Duke of Edinburgh Street, Hamrun, Malta.

[Compiled from information supplied by Max Farrugia, chairman of I.A.R. Malta.]


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