The hero working to make Malta's skies safe for migrant birds
Nimrod Mifsud, a BirdLife Malta volunteer for over ten years, has shown passion and drive in his efforts to help birds migrating over Malta leave safely without persecution
Nimrod Mifsud, BirdLife Malta's newly nominated Nature's Hero, made headlines in the international press in 2014. With Nimrod's assistance, British naturalist and broadcaster Chris Packham was making a documentary on Malta's controversial spring hunting of migrant birds. While Nimrod and the BBC crew were making their way along a public footpath through land claimed for exclusive use by hunters, he was arrested and charged with trespassing, after allegedly being abused and threatened.
He had to wait until the autumn of 2017 before he was cleared of all charges. By then, Nimrod was also well known to visitors to the RSPB's Loch Garten reserve in Scotland, where he spent the summers of 2015 and 2016 as a volunteer warden monitoring the famous Ospreys.
As Nimrod wrote in his blog: “My home is always close to my heart, not least because of the thousands of migrating birds we have passing through every year... The reason I became involved in conservation, and especially bird conservation, was because in Malta I was disgusted by the amount of birds I would see being hunted or poached. This included my first ever sighting of an Osprey, shot just minutes after I first glimpsed it! Thankfully, BirdLife Malta and the RSPB are slowly pushing back the tide of ignorance by improving local communities’ knowledge of, and respect for, the natural world.”
A BirdLife Malta volunteer for over ten years, Nimrod participates in the international camps that they organise to monitor illegal hunting and enforce the law: the Spring Watch in April, and the Raptor Camp in September.
“Nimrod demonstrates a passion and drive for ensuring birds migrating over Malta leave our islands safely without persecution”, says Mark Sultana, BirdLife Malta's CEO. “He has suffered verbal and physical abuse while out monitoring illegal hunting. Thanks to his interventions, illegal hunters and trappers have been brought to justice. He is an excellent mentor for new volunteers, keeping the group motivated at difficult times. His willingness to go above and beyond also means he is always on hand to provide extra support when it comes to ensuring that birds are protected. Nimrod is also skilled in transmitting his passion to nature protection to others and is an essential asset during campaigns and educational events”
He helps to collect birds wounded by hunters, and delivers them to the vet and, if necessary, to BirdLife Malta’s rehabilitation centre for shot and injured birds. In January 2017, during the rare visit of a flock of Mute Swans to the Mediterranean island, Nimrod worked closely with law-abiding hunters to co-ordinate the feeding of the birds until they gained the strength to return to mainland Europe.
“In so many words, Nimrod is capable of working with everyone if it benefits nature!” says Mark. “He is known across the local community for his positivity and enthusiasm. He has the rare ability to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds, whether it is with children or adults, volunteers or staff, or other organisations and individuals which share our common aims and goals.”
Nimrod has been heavily involved in BirdLife Malta's awareness-raising activities, including the UK's Birdfair, and has managed to attract donors, and new members too. He is a regular volunteer at BirdLife Malta events and outreach activities.
“Nimrod has a contagious enthusiasm that inspires not only staff and other volunteers, but people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds who attend our events”, Mark says. “His passion for conservation issues makes him an amazing ambassador for our work, encouraging people to take an interest and return to us as members or regular participants in events.”
Nimrod has also helped BirdLife Malta in important field work conserving wildlife and habitats across the island. “He regularly dedicates his free time to supporting maintenance efforts at our nature reserves, to sustain safe places for wildlife to thrive, including important bird species. Apart from being challenging physical work, this involves engaging with visitors and creating positive experiences for them to enjoy their time in nature, inspiring a sense of responsibility for conserving these important areas.”
Nimrod is an active promoter of BirdLife's values and ethos in creating a better future for nature and people alike. He works to educate and empower people to be more environmentally-conscious, and to share the long-term benefits a healthy, biodiverse environment has for individuals and all parts of the community.
“In a country like Malta which has a high density of people and very limited natural spaces, inspiring these values can work to create a noticeable change”, Mark Sultana concludes.