[WATCH] Environment Minister admits it’s time for wildlife crime unit

Wildlife crime unit will be launched in the coming months

Environment Minister Jose Herrera says it is time to have a wildlife crime unit. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Environment Minister Jose Herrera says it is time to have a wildlife crime unit. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Environment Minister Jose Herrera has said the time has come for an enforcement unit specifically focused on preventing crime related to wildlife.

Herrera said the government is currently discussing the matter internally.

He was speaking during a press conference at the Mistra Valley, where environmental rehabilitation works are underway.

Herrera said that he held a meeting with Police Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar and asked for more police efforts to prevent wildlife crime.

A bloodied flamingo: 'These incidents hurt me', Jose Herrera says
A bloodied flamingo: 'These incidents hurt me', Jose Herrera says

The news comes on the back of a barbaric act earlier this week that saw migrating flamingos being shot at by poachers.

“When I hear of these incidents, they hurt me. It is one of the worst acts of criminality to shoot a protected species... I do not sleep at night when I hear of these incidents,” Herrera said.

The minister said that he held discussions with Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri on the setting up of a specific wildlife crime unit.

He said it still had to be decided whether the unit will form part of an already existing entity, or whether it will be a completely new authority.

“It is our declared policy to have an enforcement unit,” he said.

His comments come on the same day that the police and the Environment and Resources Authority carried out raids in three properties that uncovered hundreds of protected bird carcasses.

Organisations like BirdLife have long been calling for a specific enforcement unit dedicated to tackling wildlife crimes.

Tree planting

Asked about the recent tree planting carried out by government entities at Saqqajja Hill and Ta’ Qali, where questions have been raised on the adequacy of carrying this out in August, Herrera insisted there was a commitment to water these saplings until the rainier season arrives.

“While it is not the best time in terms of water and climate conditions, sometimes you don’t have an option, if infrastructural works are being carried out and require uprooting and transplantation. You can’t always wait for the perfect timing… the government has committed itself to put in an extra effort until the rainier season arrives,” Herrera said.

Mistra Valley is being cleared from invasive species that will be replaced by indigenous shrubs. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Mistra Valley is being cleared from invasive species that will be replaced by indigenous shrubs. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
The clean-up of Mistra Valley is one of several initiatives to rehabilitate the country's valleys. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
The clean-up of Mistra Valley is one of several initiatives to rehabilitate the country's valleys. Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

The minister also spoke about Ambjent Malta’s efforts in cleaning up valleys across the island.

The minister visited a clean-up organised at Mistra Valley that included the removal of invasive species to make way for indigenous species.

The exercise will create more biodiversity, while preventing flooding caused by the invasive bamboo.

“The ministry is committed to rehabilitating the valleys around Malta, which have been left rundown and unattended for years,” Herrera said.

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