The Malta Independent 8 May 2021, Saturday

Barn Owl project at Razzett tal-Bagħal enters second phase, native trees nursery extended

Karl Azzopardi Wednesday, 26 August 2020, 11:47 Last update: about 9 months ago

The Barn Owl project at Razzett tal-Bagħal in Buskett has entered its second phase while the adjacent tree nursery which is set to replace non-indigenous trees with native ones is being extended. 

Environmental conservation and the protection of our native biodiversity are two of the pillars of functioning ecosystems, and it is our duty to promote and invest in initiatives which preserve it for present and future generations – ensuring that our natural heritage does not become a distant memory, the Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Planning Aaron Farrugia said. 

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The Minister was addressing a press conference at Razzet tal-Bagħal (the mule’s farmhouse), a site managed by the Federation for Hunting, Trapping, and Conservation Malta (FKNK), where he announced that the site will incentivise a better understanding of biodiversity. 

Notably, this space received much attention from Grandmasters over the years who used it to feed their hunting hobby including Jean Parisot de la Valletta and later Giovanni Paola Lascaris who brought in exotic birds and deer for visitors to hunt. 

The farmhouse includes a visitors’ and interpretation centre with broad-level information on the historical and natural features of Buskett, including aspects of geomorphology, hydrology, ecology and cultural heritage. Within this space one can find a museum that is made up of donations hunting enthusiasts that vary from photos of different species of birds to hunting methods, like the use of ferrets or traps. 

Another room within the farmhouse is used as an educational teaching area to cater for visiting research teams and students, providing a space for briefings, talks and lectures on environmental-related matters.               

The site is home to the barn owl project which will now enter its second phase. This project aims to reintroduce barn owls in suitable environments in Malta and Gozo through a technique successfully conducted by falconers across the globe. 

It is supported by the Conservation of Wild Birds fund for VOs. 

The spaces for the barn owl are being set up in a way that they cannot see the people outside as they cannot differentiate people from food at the moment. Prior to introducing these nocturnal birds into the surrounding natural habitat, they are fed for 15 days until they can start hunting on their own for mice. Barn owls consume around 1,200 mice per year. 

Also homed in this space is a Steppe Eagle which was found within a container of illegally imported parrots and was in bad shape due to the extreme difference in climate. This eagle is usually found in Asia and it is speculated that this one is specifically coming from Mongolia. 

The Malta Falconry Club is currently caring for this bird which will be cared of and kept inside this space for educational purposes and to be an emblem of the respect that hunters show towards the birds, despite the bad reputation that they have received over the years due to certain irresponsible illegalities.

 

The Minister also announced the extension of a native tree nursery on a land adjacent to the farmhouse. In early 2020, the FKNK, together with ACT’s initiative of Saġġar, set-up a Nursery within the Razzett tal-Bagħal by planting over 2500 seeds, in 800ml square re-usable pots, of native trees and shrubs which were collected from the Buskett gardens’ surroundings.

The trees will then be distributed to the public.

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