Hunters’ ‘open day’ celebrates biodiversity and sustainable management at Buskett

Environment minister calls for dialogue between hunters and environmentalists: ‘keeping an honest and open mind and mutual understanding can be transformative’ 

Members of the Malta Falconers Club were also present with a number of birds of prey
Members of the Malta Falconers Club were also present with a number of birds of prey

An open day organised by the Federation for Hunting and Conservation Malta (FKNK) in collaboration with the environment ministry served as as educational and awareness-raising exercise for visitors at the height of migration for many bird species, despite serious reports of poaching and illegal hunting taking place.

A number of birds could be seen flying over Buskett during the event, with members of the Malta Falconers Club also present with a number of birds of prey.

Buskett is amongst the most important Natura 2000 sites in Malta as an important grounds for many plants, birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects. The area is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Area (SPA).

Speaking at the event, environment minister Aaron Farrugia said that civil society was involved in the area management through the use of ‘rziezet’ in the area, one of which is ir-Razzett tal-Bagħal, managed by the FKNK.

The ministry financed a project at this razzett for the rearing and release of barn owls, a resident bird of prey. “Such processes of reintroduction and conservation are both very important approaches in conservation efforts. This type of reintroduction is widely accepted as a means to improve the conservation status of species that have suffered population decline usually due to human impact,” he said.

“If properly empowered, different types of people from different walks of life can contribute positively to our natural environment. We need to understand those who live a rural lifestyle, and respect our cultural heritage, but most importantly, understand the value of effective dialogue, of balance, and recognise that various sustainable activities can be more than compatible with conservation objectives and contribute positively to biodiversity in many sites, especially within the framework of a management plan.

“Effective dialogue and partnership between environmentalists, hunters, farmers, landowners, authorities, and keeping an honest and open mind and mutual understanding can be transformative: creating solutions for a variety of problems, from biodiversity to conservation to rural development to climate change,” Farrugia said.

“The fact that government entrusted such an important heritage site and that the minister for the environment has shown full trust in the resources and skills of the FKNK is an important fact. We promise to reciprocate with facts by means of projects that encourage conservation and enhance biodiversity,” said FKNK President Joe Perici Calascione.

The event unfolded in the wake of harsh criticism from BirdLife Malta, who this week said that with only nine months into 2020, it had retrieved more illegally shot protected birds than the last eight years. Up to 22 September, 139 protected birds were retrieved after being shot by hunters. A total of 618 birds were retrieved since 2013, 70% of these in the last four years