Caring for injured wildlife
Caring for injured wildlife is specialised work. It requires a combination of knowledge in several fields such as animal biology, animal nutrition, medicine, as well as an ability to recognise the character of each individual animal and its needs.
The Malta Wildlife Hospital was set up following several intensive courses in the United Kingdom and Italy in the field of rehabilitating wildlife. Every year the hospital receives between 300 - 350 birds and animals in need of care. These animals are sent to us by the Department for the Protection of the Environment, the Administrative Law Enforcement Police and the general public. Of these poor creatures 85% are protected birds, or birds from protected sites, which are shot by irresponsible hunters. The rest are animals which are hit by cars, poisoned, or injured accidentally.
We receive a number of animals whose nests have been tampered with, or abandoned by their parents - particularly in Spring. We also care for illegally imported exotic pets which are brought into Malta. These include a considerable number of terrapins, freshwater turtles and also reptiles. Every animal goes through an initial stage of intensive care, followed by stages of recuperation and physical therapy - many of them suffer from fractures.
The majority of animals reaching our centre need special attention. Because of this - especially during Spring and Autumn - the hospital needs the help of volunteers to look after the animals. We have five main volunteers and other volunteers that help by collecting the animals from the homes of those who find them or from pick up stations. The main work of the hospital volunteers is in the medication, cleaning and feeding of the animals. We have also to rehabilitate, and finally release the animals. All our volunteers offer their services to the hospital without any remuneration.
Of all the animals that arrive at our centre,which are medicated and cared for, an average of 62 - 66% are successfully returned to the wild. The remainder either unfortunately perish during the first days of arrival or during the recuperation period. It is not the policy of the centre to keep permanently disabled animals, where possible these are sent abroad to be used in breeding programmes. This is achieved through our contacts with various wildlife hospitals in Europe.
The first help the hospital received from International Animal Rescue was to construct a number of units to house the animals during their rehabilitation period. These are now ageing and in the coming months we plan to refurbish them.
In order to create awareness among the Maltese people - especially the younger generation - our members visit schools and clubs and hold slide shows and discussions. We also take part in chat shows on radio and participate in wildlife discussions on Television.
It is not the policy of the hospital to allow visits. We prefer not to disturb the animals. The animals can easily become familiar with man making them very difficult to release into their natural environment with any success.
The hospital gets involved in lobbying by ensuring a lot of publicity for our activities. We aim to create awareness regarding the problems wild animals face in Malta. We also put pressure on the local authorities to enforce and improve existing laws and regulations and to take the necessary actions against offenders.