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Armed hunter arrested inside nature reserve

Sudden changes in the weather over Malta during the last few days have led to a number of bird species being sighted and recorded on the island, particularly shore birds and waders. 

As a result of this, on Monday 27 January officers from the Administrative Law Enforcement Police Unit (ALE) arrested an armed hunter inside Is-Simar Nature Reserve, in the limits of  Xemxija, St Paul’s Bay. Sources close to the police told me they were alerted to the break in by one of the reserve’s wardens and immediately dispatched a team from the ALE unit.

 The officers chased and caught the hunter who was still inside the reserve when they arrived. The police are working on the theory that the intruder was planning to shoot some of the birds wintering at the reserve which include Teal, Snipe and Coot.

Is-Simar nature reserve is one of only two main wetland nature reserves in Malta managed by  Birdlife Malta. A spokesman said that, with winter slowly giving way to spring, several of Is-Simar’s birds are already starting to display breeding behaviour. Among these birds are Little Grebes for whom the wetland is the only known breeding site on the islands, thanks to the ideal habitat provided by the dense reed beds around the brackish lake. The birds’ behaviour is currently being studied by a group of local ornithologists. 

At this time of year the reserve is closed to the public so that the birds will not be disturbed.  But in spring visitors are welcome and can enjoy the birds, animals and plants in the reserve every Sunday between 10.30am and 4.30pm.

The prompt action of the ALE police has prevented the killing of birds wintering in Malta and preparing for the breeding season.  Now we must hope that the court will do justice at the hearing and send a strong message to other hunters thinking of trespassing in nature reserves with guns. Entering a nature reserve with a firearm is a clear indication that the intruder is up to no good.