Arsonists attack Ghadira Nature Reserve and EU LIFE+ Billboard
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
The Ghadira Nature Reserve was targeted by arsonists early in the morning today. An EU LIFE + Project on Bird Migration and Trapping billboard on the main road in Ghadira was also set on fire.
The Ghadira Nature Reserve Warden Charles Gauci explained that at 02:45 in the morning, the night watchman saw a huge flame, about two stories high, rising up from the north-west border of the reserve. The watchman immediately called the police, and the mobile squad that was already in the area arrived within five minutes. The fire department also arrived and put out the fire at the reserve.
“The area that has been damaged by the arson attack is on the north-west perimeter of the Ghadira nature reserve, with the fire damage inside the reserve boundary, between the outer fence and the ditch. An area of approximately 75 meters by 5 meters has been burnt to the ground, with the majority of damage caused to the Shrubby Orache plant, which acts as a vegetation border to the reserve. If the reserve had not been so damp, the fire would probably have been much more extensive.” Mr. Gauci said.
A LIFE + Project billboard on bird migration and trapping, which was recently set up on the road leading past the Foresta 2000 site away from the reserve, was also set on fire in a second attack. However the flames had only destroyed about a quarter of the sign itself.
Ghadira Nature Reserve was recently broken into twice over the last 6 weeks. On 16th January an intruder was spotted by the night watchman in the evening, crouching near one of the bird-watching hides and left the area when the police arrived at the reserve. In a previous incident on Christmas Eve, the fence of the reserve was cut open and a plank was laid across the moat which surrounds the reserve. Three live shotgun cartridges were also found at the scene by the Nature Reserve warden.
Over the last 2 years BirdLife Malta project sites, staff and active members have been subject to not less than 20 direct attacks and serious threats. There were numerous other incidences where BirdLife staff and volunteers were also verbally abused or bird watchers cars were vandalised.
On 20 March 2007 Ghadira Nature Reserve was attacked as criminals dumped around 10 gallons of used car oil onto the wetland. In May 2007 several thousand trees and shrubs were chopped down, broken or uprooted at the Foresta 2000 afforestation site in Ghadira during the night of 7th/8th May. On 17 February 2008, three cars belonging to BirdLife Malta’s volunteers, who were carrying out scientific ringing studies at Buskett Bird Sanctuary, were torched. On 23 February 2008, BirdLife Malta campaign billboards on spring hunting featuring Maltese personalities were vandalized. On 29 April 2008, the EU LIFE Yelkouan Shearwater Project Site Warden’s car was targeted. Two bolts on one wheel were loosened and the other two were removed. A serious accident could have occurred if the warden had not noticed that the bolts were loose in time.
BirdLife Malta President Joseph Mangion said: “The main problem with the prevailing situation is that none of the criminals who carried out these arson and vandal attacks have ever been caught by the police and brought to justice to date. This failure, therefore, protects the perpetrators of these crimes and gives them free rein to continue the abuse. We do not want to hear any more condemnations or promises that these criminals will be brought to justice but want to see results.”
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