Thursday, April 2, 2015
Let’s help the birds breed
Alfred E. Baldacchino
I was introduced to birds before I could even speak. As a toddler, I used to frequent our house garden, observing the hens, rabbits and pigeons we kept for the occasional special lunch. But there was a rule for harvesting: the selected food for the table was not chosen haphazardly.
The brooding hens, nesting pigeons and rabbits with litters were spared and when they were harvested, they were not let loose and chased for the thrill of the kill.
If the parents did not escape the greed for the kill in spring, these juveniles would not have seen the light of day. Photo: Natalino Fenech 2012.07.01
Coming from Rabat, it was, at the time, almost impossible not to join relatives on trapping and shooting sprees, even at a tender age. I can still remember cycling, two hours before sunrise, to Dingli or Raba’ Nemel, to lay the nets for trapping finches or turtle doves. That was the way we were taught then. I also learnt to appreciate nature without the need to destroy it.
At the age of 12, we went to live in Cospicua. At first I thought I had lost the birds and the wildlife forever, though they were only a couple of kilometres away. My love for nature made me look for alternative ways. I used to go out for country walks on weekends and holidays, and I remember, in my early teens, buying magazines about nature. This opened the way for positive appreciation. I also bought a sophisticated ‘gun’, aiming at and shooting to my heart’s content, without the birds or other wildlife being harmed or even knowing about it. It was my first SLR camera.
Quail – another breeding bird of the Maltese Islands, despite the urge to kill it. Photo: Natalino Fenech
Living in Cospicua, I experienced that sense of loss and anguish when birds were decimated and killed just for the fun of it, more so when this was claimed to be out of a love for birds.
The more I grew in years, knowledge and experience, the more satisfaction and pleasure did wildlife bring to me. The road was not an easy one: it was full of ups and downs. I often remind myself one is not paid to uphold one’s principles but one has to pay for them.
But I was determined to continue sharing my experience and knowledge with those who, though they really loved birds, unfortunately were never taught to express their appreciation in a positive way. Indeed, they were prevented from doing so because their love for birds was used or abused for political gain in exchange for their vote, irrespective of the negative psychological impact it had on them.
They formed part of a ‘minority’ that, instead of being encouraged to give their share, considering their knowledge, eagerness and enthusiasm, were abused for political gain.
What a wonderful place it would be if all those who love birds would work together to safeguard them so they could be positively appreciated and enjoyed by one and all, even by the shooters, for the benefit of the birds, the ecosystem and the country as a whole.
How can one say that one loves birds and to show one’s appreciation one shoots to kill the bird one says one loves.
That is why I shall be voting No, to stop the hunting of birds during their breeding season. During their delicate time of reproduction, birds deserve the utmost care and protection. This is the basic concept of any true conservationist.
Voting No to spring shooting when the birds are on their way to breed will make us proud to be Maltese, at par with the best in the European Union. And only this will make birds and nature lovers unite.
I trust common sense will prevail.