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Malta Bulletins
Comments from BirdLife Malta


1. Correspondence with Birdlife Malta on the 'Times of Malta' leading article:

My mail to BL Malta:

Dear Mr. Antoine Vella,

The comments attributed to you and your organisation in the Times of Malta Online today are not very promising for the future of the European Directives for the Protection of Birds and the common natural European heritage which they are designed to protect.

You will be aware that European birders are currently campaigning - on your behalf - for an end to hunting in Malta. Since the first application for EU membership in the early '90s, your government has had time to consider the additional responsibilities such membership entails.

Before I introduce this subject into a wider discussion forum, I would be grateful for your comments. No doubt the media has embellished the story. If this is not the case, I am eager to hear your justification for such an improbable position.

Yours sincerely,

David Conlin
Eurobirder-Coord & Proact

Reply from BL Malta:

Dear Mr Conlin,

I do not have the pleasure to know you personally but I can see that you are in good faith and wish to improve the situation in Malta as regards the natural environment. On behalf of BirdLife Malta I also express my gratitude for your 'eagerness' and campaigning.

You will doubtless agree that our first responsibility is towards the wildlife that resides in our country or passes through during migration. We are working to save as many birds as possible by changing the very mindset of hunters who, like us, are Maltese. It is perhaps easier for us to understand the mentality and behavioural patterns of hunters since we have the dubious honour of sharing with them the restricted bits of countryside that still survive in Malta.

We can therefore justify our existence only on the basis of how effective we are in bringing about significant and permanent changes to the culture of a large section of our people. This is a very delicate task that requires the use of all the values that form part of the BirdLife International mission statement. As a member of BirdLife you are of course familiar with such values but I am taking
the liberty to remind you what they are.

Values - in achieving its aims BirdLife International will be:

Culturally sensitive
Concerned for people
Scientifically based "

You can find these and other important statements on the BirdLife International site
As you can see the values enshrined within the BirdLife International charter do not include 'intransigent', 'narrow-minded' and 'arrogant'.

It was therefore within the context of such values that I reacted to the EU Commissioner's haughty off-hand comments regarding Malta's bid to join the EU. Incidentally my reactions were reported faithfully by the newspaper and I hope that I managed to repair some of the damage that Ms Wallstrom has done to our efforts.

Antoine Vella

2. Telephone call from Mr. Saviour Balzan, special assistant to the the Minister for the Environment and Chairman of the Environment Monitoring Board.

Mr. Saviour Balzan called me today (Tuesday). In a long 20 minute call he assured me that his authority were doing all in their power to prevent illegal shooting of migratory birds. The police and army, with helicopters, speedboats and Belfast-type roadblocks had made life hard for the hunters this season and had arrested over 300. He reckoned they had saved 3,600 raptors from being shot. While praising his efforts I pointed out that Malta had a bad international press and image for which they only had themselves to blame. If he presented us with details of his organisations efforts in writing, we would give it publicity as well. Dialogue was all-important.

Mr. Balzan is special personal assistant to the Environment Minister and Chairman of the Environment Monitoring Board. Members include representatives of the police, armed forces, hunters' association and BirdLife.

One of my local sources who wishes to remain unnamed at this stage says:

"Saviour Balzan is a great guy and he really works a lot. BUT. the truth is right now there is HAVOC over here. The ALE, the only section of the police who (are tasked with) environmental enforcement, are 22.. just 22... they have not enough vehicles, not adequate clothing, too few
human resources, AND they are being discouraged from working ...

They recently caught a guy with Egyptian vulture (Neophron precnopterus), Red Kite (Milvus milvus), Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus), etc,. after hunting in Egypt... this guy knows some "big heads' and the ALE had a hard time to cover their asses up because they CAUGHT HIM BREAKING THE LAW!!

Recently 55 new police officers joined the force... not one was assigned to the ALE... the message is clear - DO NOT WORK. However, I must say that currently the ALE are VERY
enthusiastic about their work, and they are doing a lot, considering their minimal resources."


Eurobirder/Proact-Malta David Conlin 2001