BirdLife condemns 'butchering' of Mosta square trees, ERA says trees will only be 'transplanted'

BirdLife Malta is urgently appealing to the authorities to halt the ongoing work, citing the trees' importance for roosting birds

Photos: BirdLife Malta
Photos: BirdLife Malta

Updated at 12:15pm with ERA statement

BirdLife Malta has strongly condemned the decision to remove and destroy trees adjacent to the church in Mosta's Square. The process of "butchering" these trees in preparation for uprooting, carried out by the Mosta local council with the approval of ERA, began on Monday morning.

Expressing deep concern, BirdLife Malta is urgently appealing to the authorities to halt the ongoing work. At this critical time of the year, thousands of White Wagtails (Zakak Abjad), Common Starlings (Sturnell), and Spanish Sparrows (Għasfur tal-Bejt) seek refuge in the trees during the night, roosting together for safety, the NGO said.

BirdLife explained that the removal of these trees poses a serious threat to the local bird population, particularly considering that this is the sole roosting site for White Wagtails outside of Valletta. BirdLife Malta asserts that the decision to remove these trees is not only misguided but is particularly ill-timed.

Meanwhile, the NGO also issued a reaction to Saturday's illegal killing of a flamingo at Qalet Marku.

The group stated that the killing was the fault of Prime Minister Robert Abela and Gozo minister Clint Camilleri.

BirdLife Malta thanked those involved in reporting the incident, as well as the police for taking the incident seriously.

ERA Statement

In a statement later on Monday, ERA stated that the local council is merely "transplanting" the ficus trees to the Santa Margerita area in Mosta.

Ficus trees, are known for their hardiness, ERA stated, and are being transplanted during the appropriate time of the year.

"In the case of the Mosta square trees, the permit was issued during the most suitable period for transplanting of trees, whereby it allows for the tree to acclimatise, and roosting birds are versatile to find alternative trees, during this period when winter has not set in yet, until the new trees grow enough to have a hosting canopy," the authority explained.

Meanwhile, ERA said that the selected replacement tree species include Holm Oaks and Judas Trees.

"There are instances where trees in the urban environment are required to be removed to implement urban regeneration projects, tackle damage caused by the roots of some tree species and allow the use of public open spaces in a more practical way," ERA stated.