The ballottra is endemic to the Maltese island and a rare sight nowadays, unfortunately.
However, nature enthusiast and photographer Steve Zammit Lupi was lucky enough to have crossed paths with one in the wild over the weekend and it even stopped to pose for a photo.
“When I was a young I used to see the ballottra everyday on the Maltese Lira cent coin,” he said.
“Today in our natural environment, the weasel is rare and shy. Today I was lucky, because one came out peaking with curiosity.”
The ballottra is an iconic and indigenous species of Malta and is recognisable with its light brown coloured fur and white on its belly. The male species is generally larger than the female species and measures in between 13 and 30cm.
It is also the smallest carnivore in the world and is now considered a rare species due to the loss of habitat on the island, making this an even rarer and special encounter.
In fact, the ballottra is so cherished and beloved that it made its way onto the old Maltese Lira one cent coin, which is probably the closest you’ll get to actually seeing one.
Thankfully, efforts are being made to safeguard the Maltese weasel, including an educational campaign by the National Museum of Natural History which is collecting data of wild mammal sightings on the Maltese islands.
“Your sightings (dead or alive) along with the exact location of the sighting and were possible, photographs of the specimen, would help in building up a better picture on the status and distribution of our mammalian fauna,” it said.
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