ENDANGERED MALTESE SPECIES

Endangered species are a number of animals or plants which are in danger of extinction due to human activity, or changes in their habitat or climate. Unfortunately, most countries have a number of said species, and the only way to try and prevent extinction is to actively pass laws of protection for effective conservation. These laws may generally regulate hunting, restrict land development, and even establish the creation of areas of conservation or nature reserves.

In Malta, there are a number of animal species in danger of extinction. The Malta Environment and Planning Authority is the body in charge of making sure that loss of habitat or over-development does not pose a threat to such endangered animals living in the wild, as well as promoting biodiversity. Nature Trust Malta – an NGO partnered with the World Wildlife Fund – is a non-profit non-governmental environmental organisation which works towards getting legal protection for various plants and animals in the Maltese Islands, helping to save from extinction some of the local endemic species. This NGO is very active when it comes to environmental education, as well as the carrying out of many environmental projects in Malta such as afforestation, habitat conservation and the creation of marine protected areas.

Below are some important Maltese endangered animals which form an important and defining part of our country’s wildlife. Most of them are, at this point, hard to encounter during a relaxed ramble or swim. All of these species are protected by law.

The Maltese Freshwater Crab (Qabru)

This crustacean is endemic to certain areas of the Maltese islands. It is mostly found in areas where fresh-running water is present throughout the year, such as Baħrija, Mtaħleb, San Martin and Lunzjata Valley in Gozo. The Maltese freshwater crab grows up to 7-8cm and is carnivorous, feeding on snails and tadpoles. Due to the drying up or pollution of the springs it lives in, this type of crab has become very rare, and its numbers are visibly decreasing with each passing year.

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Image source: Timesofmalta

 

The Mediterranean Chameleon (Kamaleonte)

This reptile is not native to the Maltese Islands, having been brought over from North Africa in the 19th century. At approximately 30cm long, it has three digits on each leg, has a prehensile tail, and is a predator, mainly eating insects. The chameleon is a reptile characterised by two main attributes – its tongue, which is longer than the whole of the animal’s body, and its ability to change the colour of its skin pigmentation, so as to match its background. Although usually an arborial creature (lives only in trees), the female leaves the trees in order to lay eggs in a hole dug near the base of the trunk, and then covers them in soil.

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Image source: Protothema

 

The Barn Owl (Barbaġann)

Renowned for its ability to hunt at night, the barn owl is usually about 24cm in length. Covered by a golden-buff cape on its head, back and tail, its heart-shaped white face and large eyes are striking characteristics. Barn owls are not generally found in the wild in Malta anymore, and they can only be admired in specific reserves and organisations, such as the Malta Falconry Centre in Siġġiewi. Some people also keep barn owls as pets, however this is not an easy feat, especially since the barn owl’s diet generally consists of mice, small birds, bats, and maybe frogs and lizards.

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Image source: Worldwildlife

 

The Loggerhead Turtle (Fekruna Komuni)

In the Mediterranean Sea, such turtles usually reach a length of 50 – 70cm. Their reddish-brown and yellow heart-shaped shells, large head and powerful jaws are optimal for open water. They feed on molluscs, crabs and sea-urchins. Females lay their eggs on beaches, and in fact, a number of turtles have often been seen on our shores, specifically at Ramla l-Ħamra Bay in Gozo, Ġnejna Bay, Golden Bay, as well as Santa Marija Bay in Comino. Nature Trust Malta are currently heading a programme to rescue and rehabilitate injured turtles, as well as develop a new Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre at the Xrobb l-Għagin Park in Marsaxlokk.

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Image source: Wikipedia