IAR Malta rescues ferrets, birds and a rare snake
Two abandoned ferrets are being cared for by IAR Malta after they were discovered in a rubbish skip by three British tourists. The frightened animals were found peeping out of a cardboard box when Mark Reagon and his friends opened the lid of the skip to dispose of their rubbish. They managed to shut the ferrets in the box and, after making some telephone enquiries, entrusted them to the care of Max Farrugia, Chairman of IAR Malta.
Mark and his friends were shocked to learn from Max about the growing trend in Malta for people to buy wild animals as exotic pets, only to abandon them when they tire of them for one reason or another. Unfortunately local pet shop owners know very little about wildlife: they are only interested in making money out of them and have no concern for their welfare.
Ferrets have to eat at least six times a day and the poor creatures were very hungry - and smelly too from being in the skip for some time. They were given a bath using cat shampoo and then fed a good meal, followed by an hour’s sleep and then a second meal. They were kept under close observation over the weekend and then checked over by the local vet who gave them a clean bill of health. The ferrets are not native to Malta and therefore can’t be released into the wild. They will remain in the care of IAR Malta until they can be found a good home where we will continue to keep them under observation.
Shortly after rescuing the two ferrets, IAR’s Max Farrugia was called to the aid of a racing pigeon that had flown into a TV aerial. The owner of the house - a British woman married to a Maltese man - contacted IAR when the bird fell into her garden. The pigeon had a breast injury and also needed treatment for shock and stress. When it is recovered the bird will be returned to its owner.
A few days later IAR rescued a second racing pigeon. Most racing pigeons that come into the IAR centre have been hit by shot guns, but some are frightened by fireworks and fly in panic into TV aerials.
A barn owl was next on Max’s list of rescues. The bird was either bred locally in captivity or imported from abroad. As well as a ring on its leg, the bird had jessies on one of its feet - this means the owl was kept tied by its legs. It is obviously impossible to know whether the bird escaped or was released deliberately.
The Maltese wildlife police (the Administrative Law Enforcement department) received a call to say that an owl had fallen in a private swimming pool and was in danger of drowning. The police asked the owner of the pool to do his best to rescue the bird while they hurried to the scene. En route they called IAR Malta and asked if we would be able to take it in and care for it. Half an hour later, the bird was in Max’s possession. He immediately dried the bird’s feathers with a hairdryer so that its feathers wouldn’t be damaged. Then the owl was given some water and a quarter of a charcoal pill to cleanse its digestive system of any chemicals in the pool water. Later in the day it was given its first meal. The barn owl is one of the species which used to breed in Malta but was wiped out by the intensive hunting activities on the island.
The last rescue during an intensive 48 hour period was a snake. Max Farrugia received a phone call from the owner of the Santa Rosa restaurant close by. He was told that some diners on the veranda had received the shock of their lives when a snake fell from the sky! Panic ensued among the customers, but one person remained calm enough to catch the snake which was a rare protected species known as a leopard snake. He placed the snake - which was more than three feet long - in a large glass bottle. It seems it was basking in the sun on the canvas roof of the veranda and simply slid off when the canvas was disturbed, perhaps by the wind. The snake wasn’t injured and after being kept under observation it was released back into the wild the following day.