Watch a majestic short toed eagle swoop overhead as you enjoy the cool shade of a beautiful endemic species of tree. Over the past thirty years there have been great efforts taken in Malta to conserve and protect the flora and fauna of the country, and this has led to some fantastic projects and areas of natural beauty that you can visit and support. Here are just a few of our favourite spots to explore the nature of Malta.
The Nature Trust of Malta operates some fantastic programmes conserving the endemic species on the island and has worked tirelessly in the protection of marine turtles. During 2012 the Nature Trust of Malta worked in conjunction with the Marine Rescue Unit and the San Lucjan Aquaculture Research Centre, which is based in Marsaxlokk, to rescue injured turtles, rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. All the turtles in the waters around Malta are endangered species, the largest in number and most commonly found are the Loggerhead turtle, with the Green turtle and the Leatherback turtle also inhabiting this area.
There are many threats to the turtles of the world including habitat destruction, rising sea levels, changes in weather patterns, and being caught by fishing fleets. This barrage of threat is the reason why turtle conservation work is of great importance. All this rehabilitation work is being backed up by the Adopt a Turtle campaign, which has been running for many years. This campaign helps to raise awareness of the species, which is so close to extinction, through people being able to adopt a turtle by giving a yearly donation of around 25 euros.
There are some fantastic places to catch a glimpse of the endemic fauna of Malta. One of the best places to find well conserved plant life is the Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park, which can be found in the northwest of the country between Golden Bay and Anchor Bay (where you will also find Popeye Village.). This park includes an array of environments from coastal cliffs through to agricultural land, which has led to around 430 different species of plant growing in the park itself. Some examples of the more unusual endemic species found here are the Maltese sea lavender, Maltese sea chamomile and the Maltese Pyramidal orchid. You can also find carob, golden samphire and olive trees among the huge variety growing here. Although Il-Majjistral Nature and History Park is great for spotting wonderful plants and flowers, there are also many species of animal that you can find. There are nine species of bird that are known to breed in the park as well as many reptiles, hedgehogs, bats and more.
If you venture to the north, opposite the town of Mellieha and close to the Ghadira Nature Reserve, you will find Foresta 2000. This is a conservation project run by BireLife Malta where a large area has been given over to afforestation. Over 15000 trees have been planted in 104 hectares of land to create a Mediterranean woodland. This conservation site has examples of indigenous Maltese species of tree such as the Aleppo pine and holm oak, and is a protected area where there is no hunting or trapping permitted. Many species of bird and animal can be spotted here.
In 1978 the area now known as the Ghadira Nature Reserve was declared protected due to its value to birdlife. This is a very rare place of wetland near the popular beach at Melllieha, and is also cared for under the watchful eye of BirdLife Malta. The two areas of wetland and salt marsh make this an ecologically important site and essential to the biodiversity of Malta. The conservation efforts of the Ghadira Nature Reserve are of particular importance as the hunting of wild birds had led to the decrease in the numbers of migrating birds. However, there has been a ban on hunting in the 500 metre area surrounding the Reserve for the past thirty years, and this has led to an array of bird life for you to spot, not only this but the entrance is free.