One of Malta's finest environmentalists Joe Sultana passed away on Tuesday. He was 78.

Joe Sultana was an accomplished ornithologist, writer and environmental activist

A passionate defender of the countryside and the natural heritage, Mr Sultana published several books on the Maltese and Gozitan landscape including Important Sea Bird Sites in the Mediterranean and Malta Breeding Birds Atlas 2008

Mr Sultana was also seen as one of the country’s top experts of avifauna.

Former Ornis committee chairman Mark-Anthony Falzon paid tribute to Mr Sultana:

"Joe is an impossible act to follow. He was a truly outstanding ornithologist, as well known internationally as he was in Malta. To those of us who had the privilege of knowing him, his energy and passion were contagious - mention birds, and his eyes would light up. He was also tremendously generous with his knowledge and time. Today is a sad day for ornithology and bird conservation, but his legacy - not least his first-rate research and nature writing - will live on," Prof. Falzon said. 

Mr Sultana served as secretary and later president of Birdlife and was Malta’s representative on the Steering Committee on Conservation and Management of the Environment and Natural Habitats from 1982 to 1984.

He was awarded the Gouden Lepelaar by Vogelbescherming of the Netherlands (1993), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Medal (1996), Honorary Life Membership by the British Ornithologists Union (1999) and Membership of Honour by BirdLife International (1999) for outstanding service to ornithology and bird conservation. Awards for publications included Best Maltese Publication Award (L-Ag─žsafar) – 1975, and Malta’s Literary Award (A New Guide to the Birds of Malta) 1982.

Joe Sultana signing a publication, helped by his wife. Photo: Charles SpiteriJoe Sultana signing a publication, helped by his wife. Photo: Charles Spiteri