Balloon pilot fined ‘for scaring birds’ in nature reserve

Balloon pilot fined 'for scaring birds' in nature reserve
File photo: AFP
A hot air balloon ride in the canton of St Gallen turned into a very expensive outing recently after the pilot of the aircraft used a protected wetland site as a launch site.

The man was forced to pay 600 francs, including 400 francs in costs, after he took off from the Kaltbrunner Riet nature reserve near Uznach in St Gallen, despite his claim he had failed to see signs indicating the wetland zone was a protected area.

“While the balloon was taking off, a deer took fright and a large number of ducks, geese and swans flew away,” said St Gallen cantonal prosecutors in their penalty order, citing eyewitnesses to the balloon’s launch.

This is the second time the Kaltbrunner Riet wetland reserve has made the news in recent times, Swiss news portal 20 Minuten reported.

In late 2017, a couple were fined 400 francs for making a wedding video in the area after they filmed a scene with the bride-to-be on horseback despite a ban on horse riding in area. The director of the film crew was fined 550 francs.

The Kaltbrunner Riet is one of 11 websites listed in the international Ramsar treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of wetland habitats.

It has an important variety of habitats including marshland with fens and ponds and is home to a range of rare and endangered species including amphibians and dragonflies.