Sunday, 1 June 2008 – Press release issued by Birdlife Malta

Foresta 2000 Ranger and long time BirdLife member Ray Vella’s farm is the latest victim of the serial attacks on birdwatchers in Malta as three of his rooms containing farming equipment and five rabbits were torched by unknown individuals early this morning.

Mr. Vella who went to his field at Ta Penellu, Mellieha, around 7:30 o’clock Sunday morning saw the smoke as he approached his farm. He immediately realised that the hay bales that were stored at the entrance of his field as well as the three rooms used as storage were torched, destroying his farming equipment and killing four of his pregnant female rabbits that apparently got trapped and died of smoke in one of the rooms. Additionally oil was dumped in Mr. Vella’s well, poisoning the fresh water reservoir in his field, and the wall of a second water reservoir was destroyed. Some trees were chopped and uprooted as well.

Police who came to the site shortly after they were informed confirmed that this was an arson attack. Over the last years BirdLife Malta’s conservation sites have consistently been the target of vandal attacks including the oiling of Ghadira Nature Reserve, the destruction of the sign of the EU LIFE project at Rdum tal-Madonna and the chopping down of three thousand trees and shrubs at Foresta 2000 site. Recently three cars belonging to BirdLife volunteers were also torched at Buskett while they were carrying out scientific ringing studies.

Foresta 2000 afforestation project partners Din l-Art Helwa and BirdLife Malta strongly condemned the latest vandal attack. President of BirdLife Malta Joseph Mangion immediately contacted the Secretariat of the Office of the Prime Minister and expressed the organisation’s indignation at the fact that no one has so far been brought to justice after the past attacks on BirdLife project sites and members and demanded that immediate action is taken.

Tolga Temuge, BirdLife Malta Executive Director, who came to the site shortly after the incident said: “This is the third trauma faced by Ray Vella over the last year. First he witnessed the destruction of thousands of trees he tended with care at the Foresta site and then he was shot in the face in this very same field by a hunter a few months ago (1). It is very clear to me that today’s attack will not be the last one directed at BirdLife and its volunteers as all these criminal acts continue to go unpunished.”