A car being used by seabird researchers was shot at several times in Gozo, BirdLife Malta said. No one was injured.

The incident happened yesterday as three ornithologists from the EU LIFE+ Malta Seabird Project were an area which hosted the largest colony of Scopoli's Shearwaters (Ċiefa) in the Maltese Islands. Their purpose was to fit identification rings to the young chicks on their nests as part of the study of this important population.

At about 4.30pm, two members of the group who were standing at the edge of the cliffs heard a volley of shots from a shotgun, but were unable to locate the person who had fired the shots in the immediate area.

When the team returned to the road two hours later they found one side of the car covered in dents from the spray of lead pellets that were on the ground, together with tiny flakes of chipped paint from the car.

Steve Micklewright, BirdLife Malta's Executive Director said such aggression and intimidation were unacceptable.

"That it was directed at these individuals, apparently for no other reason than that they are ornithologists working for BirdLife Malta, is of course of grave concern to us, because of the threat to the personal safety of our staff and volunteers working on this and other conservation projects.

"With volunteers arriving from all over Europe to join Maltese volunteers for the start of Raptor Camp this weekend, we are anxious to avoid a repeat of this incident and will do everything we can to make sure that our fieldworkers are safe.”

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