Letters: 5 October 2014

Maltese researchers discover new Chigger species in Sardinia

The Sardinian Wall Lizard Chigger, Lacertacus sardiniensis, is a parasitic species new to science just recently described from the endemic Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard.

The author, who has been studying herpetofauna (the study of reptiles and amphibians) for several years, has been observing this and similar species, parasitizing externally a number of herpetofaunal species.

In a scientific study published in the ‘International Journal of Acarology’ the author and his colleagues published the finding and the description of this previously unknown species, including a new species for the Maltese Islands (Sand and Wall Lizard Chigger, Ericotrombidium caucasicum, that differs slightly from other known specimens. The latter species in the same study was found new to Lipari and Alicudi (Aeolian Islands, Sicily, Italy).

Very little is known on the biology of the latter species except that its preferred host locally is the Endemic Maltese Wall Lizard. In 2012 the same authors, ie Sciberras and Pfliegler along with Bertrand, published the findings of another new species to science (Esther’s Gecko Mite Geckobia estherae) exclusively endemic to the Maltese Islands.

The species to date was only found in one locality locally on its quite widespread host and therefore it is not only a new Maltese record and new to science but a localised endemic. The species was named in honour of Mrs Esther Sciberras for her continuous assistance to the author in the study of natural history. In the same study, another species of mite (G. latastei) was found new for the Maltese islands. The latter species has quite a vast Mediterranean distribution.

This scientific work was published in the journal ‘Acarologia’.

Arnold Sciberras, President, Malta Herpetological Society

No evidence of Divine mercy

In the midst of the daily tragedies we read about in the news, religious believers are strangely silent about their “loving and merciful” God.
The God they believe in is not merciful when these tragedies occur. He didn’t save the 700,000 precious lives claimed by earthquakes in the past decade (as reported in the media, November 7, 2011).

God did not spare the lives of thousands of Africans who succumbed to the Ebola virus. Nor did His “infinite” mercy save the lives of 50 million people who perished in the 1918-9 “Spanish” flu pandemic, the deadliest pandemic in human history.

When Christians are confronted with these disasters, they absolve their personal God of any responsibility whatsoever. They blame nature, which was “created” by God in the first place!

In the final analysis, the “buck” stops at God’s “desk”! He is accountable for the deaths and disasters that result from the operations of His handiwork.

When it suits them, Christians tell us that God does not intervene in human affairs. He allows hundreds of migrants to drown at sea and children to be mauled to death by vicious dogs.

As novelist Ian McEwan told an audience at Stanford University in 2007: “The believers should know in their hearts by now that, even if they are right and there actually is a personal God, He is a reluctant intervener, as all the daily tragedies, including the death of children, attest. The rest of us, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, know that it is highly improbable that there is anyone up there at all.”

John Guillaumier, Sliema

MEPA permits and Seabank Hotel

I make reference to what I said during the 14 July 2014 episode of Reporter, broadcast on TVM by PBS.

I would like to clarify that when I said that the issuing of MEPA permits was not dependent on laws and regulations but on the power of the developer and their architect, and that the Seabank Hotel broke every rule in the book, I had no intention of disparaging Seabank Hotel and Catering Limited (C40319) and/its directors Silvio Debono, Victoria Debono, Robert Debono and Arthur Gauci.

I recognize that the Mepa permit for the new Seabank Hotel building was issued on its own merit and that the site of the building was identified in the Local Plan as being earmarked for touristic development opportunities. The decision to issue the permit was solely Mepa’s responsibility and not that of Seabank Hotel and Catering Limited or its directors.

I would like to apologise to Silvio Debono, Victoria Debono, Robert Debono and Arthur Gauci for any inconvenience or damage I may have caused.

Astrid Vella - Flimkien ghal Ambjent Ahjar Coordinator