BirdLife Malta has hit out at The Environment Landscape Consortium (ELC), who, it said, last Friday severely pruned trees in front of the law courts, a roosting site for thousands of White Wagtails during winter. The ficus trees were pruned down to bare trunks.

"The trees, which are over 50 years old, are protected by the Trees and Woodlands Protection Regulations (LN12 of 2001) which requires pruning to only take place under permit by MEPA or the Department of Agriculture," BirdLife said.

ELC began pruning the ficus trees on Tuesday. However following a complaint by the law courts that the noise was disrupting sittings, workers who were questioned by the police and MEPA failed to produce any permits as required by law, and the work was stopped.

In spite of the earlier warning, on Friday ELC workers returned to the site and resumed their work, leaving little more than the main trunk on all the trees.

"The trees serve as important roost sites for White Wagtails during the winter months when these birds seek refuge from the cold European winter. 7,600 White Wagtails were recorded using these trees as a roost site in January 2010."

Through scientific ringing studies White Wagtails wintering in Malta are known to come from the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and Denmark.

The parties responsible for the damage should be held accountable for their actions, BirdLife said.

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