Where the wind blows

April 12, 2016

times of malta

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Where the wind blows

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The EU met on 8th March 2016 to decide whether to extend for another 15 years, the use of glyphosate, a crucial weedkiller ingredient. The decision was abruptly postponed at the eleventh hour.

pic-3

A glyphosate-based weed killer

Glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide that is widely used in agriculture, public areas and private gardens. It is also used in genetically modified crops, which are specifically engineered to resist glyphosate-based products.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organisation, announced that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.  Environmental groups have since been calling for its ban.

Following WHO’s warnings, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) will undertake further studies to see if glyphosate can cause cancer, interfere with reproduction or damage the hormone system. The herbicide glyphosate can enter the body through food or drinking water. A new study has shown that the majority of Germans have been contaminated by the compound.

killed by public funds

Dead pollinators – bees – after spraying pesticides, especially for purely commercial purposes. 

According to scientists, heavy and repeated uses of glypohosate-based herbicides, contributes to many envirionmental and soil-ecosystem problems. Glyphosate results in the greatest public and worker exposure, either directly or through residues in food. And its impacts on biodiversity is also well known: it decimates and eliminates pollinators such as bees.

On the other hand, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) contends that glyphosate was unlikely to cause cancer in humans and proposed higher limits on the amount of residue of the weed killer deemed safe for humans to consume, a report which Greenpeace has referred to as “a whitewash”.

spraying pesticides 1

Whose responsibility is it: Ministry of Landscaping? Ministry of Health? Ministry of Environment? Ministry of Consumer Affairs?Ministry for Local Councils? 

The Swedish Environment Minister said: “We won’t take risks with glyphosate and we don’t think that the analysis done so far is good enough. We will propose that no decision is taken until further analysis has been done and the EFSA scientists have been more transparent about their considerations.”

Before the scheduled vote of 8 March, leaders from Italy joined Sweden, France, and the Netherlands against the widely-used herbicide.

Following such postponement, EU Member States were given till the 18 March 2016 to provide their opinion for the next meeting, scheduled for 18 May. But the Times of Malta (March 29) quoted a spokeswoman for the Ministry for Environment, that Malta did not submit such opinion by the 18 March, because discussions were still ongoing.

spraying pesticides 2

Workers are just a cog in the pro-business machine. As long as they deliver, it is not important to ensure that they wear hazardous clothing.

Following a number of articles and comments in the press, it is now more than obvious that in Malta the eagerness for monitoring and enforcing is at its lowest ebb, if at all. The professionalism of passing the buck is more pronounced.

As per Pesticides Control Act, 2001 and the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority Act, 2011, the competent authority for the authorisation and regulation of pesticides in Malta is the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority (MCCAA).

But, according to this newspaper, MCCAA refused to state it’s position and directed questions to the Environment Ministry. The latter is responsible for the protection of biodiversity, the Pesticides Control Board (PCB) which is chaired by a Ministry’s representative, and also for agriculture for which a parliamentary secretary is accountable.

Because of the impacts of pesticides on human food and animal feeds, representatives of the Food and Safety Commission and the Environment Health Department, both under the responsibility of the Minister for Energy and Health are represented on the PCB.

“I tend to start believing that Malta will not go to the next meeting on May 18 with an official public position”

One of the functions of the Food and Safety Commission is to effectively apply the precautionary principle when a significant risk to consumers is identified or reasonably suspected. Sitting on the fence is the Minister of Landscaping who is responsible for use of pesticides by his landscaping official public partner who seems to be immune to any regulation with regards to human safety and biodiversity.

One would tend to ask. “What would Malta have voted if the matter was not postponed?” In such a sensitive social and ecological matter, one would have thought that the decision was easy. But in all probabilities the pro-business vision is quite a high and a strong hurdle to overcome.

From past and present experience, considering the pro-business vision dominating every other sector, and the fortunate position in the EU’s alphabetical list, I tend to start believing that Malta will not go to the next meeting on 18 May with an official public position. The position will be reached according to the way the majority of the EU Member States vote: in other words, where the wind blows.

spraying pesticides 3

Commercial interests spray to their heart’s content: in public area, in public gardens, in street, outsides residential areas, close to public outlets. Anywhere as long as they make some profit out of it. Externalities will be paid by the general public and the environment. 

This despite the negative impacts that such a decision will undoubtedly have on society and ecology, which will be more acute locally considering the smallness of the country. Why does Malta have to be feel embarrassed by a vote in favour of society and the environment?

Miriam Dalli, member of the European Parliament Environment Committee, is quoted as saying that “ultimately we are speaking about the health of our citizens and this is another case where I stand firm in my belief that public health is not negotiable and must not be compromised by any commercial interest.”

One has to wait till the vote on 18 May to see what stand Malta will take: whether MCCAA will be on the side of commercial interests, or use the precautionary principle in the interests of social and environmental health.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com

related articles

https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/2016/03/29/glyphosate-debate-goes-on/https://alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com/glyphosate-debate-goes-on-2/

 

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GĦALL-­ĠID TAL-­POPLU… dejjem kif jgħidu

December 29, 2013

NewsBook

GĦALL-­ĠID TAL-­POPLU… dejjem kif jgħidu

il-Ħadd, 29 ta’ Di1embru, 2013 

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Xi kultant nistaqsi lili nnifsi: xhini d­differenza bejn il-­komuniżmu u l-kapitaliżmu, jew aħjar x’­xebh hemm bejniethom? Jgħidu li tal-­ewwel hija sistema ekonomika fejn minkejja li r­-riżorsi ma huma ta’ ebda individwu imma huma ta’ kulħadd, l-­istat ifassal u jikkontrollha  dawn ir­-riżorsi ambjentali u finanzjarji. Mill­-banda l­-oħra l-­kapitaliżmu huwa sistema ekonomika oħra ikkontrollata mill­-privat bil­-għan li dan jagħmel qligħ minn suq li jikkontrolla l-­prezzijiet. It-­tnejn jgħidu li l­-għan ewlieni tagħhom huwa għall­-ġid tal­poplu.

Illum bil­-globalizzazzjoni tad-­dinja, il-kapitalizmu u l­-komuniżmu  għebu fl­istorja. Imma mhux qabel tgħammru u weldu wild. Bħal bgħula kollha (hybrids), dan il-­wild huwa b’saħħtu ħafna tant li kapaci jilqa’ u jxejjen kull ‘iżmu’ ieħor li jiġi quddiemu u li ma jaqbilx miegħu, sew jekk dan ikun professjonaliżmu, spiritwaliżmu, soċjaliżmu jew nazzjonalizmu, tant li dan il­-wild nistgħu nsejħulu K­iżmu. Dan il­-K­iżmu juża r-­riżorsi finanzjarji, teknoloġiċi, akkademiċi u privati tiegħu biex jipprovdi servizzi u prodotti aħjar, irħas u fi kwantitajiet akbar, biex, dejjem kif jgħidu, joffrihom u jitma’ l­-popli tad-­dinja dejjem fl-interess u għall-­ġid tagħhom.

Tant dan il­-K­iżmu huwa b’saħħtu li ġieli jkun hemm fejn is-­saħħa tiegħu tiżboq dik tal-­istat li huwa mistenni u obbligat biex jirregolah fl-interessi tal-­poplu. U ġieli jkun hemm xi politikanti li b’għafsa ta’ qalb ikollhom iħammġu xi ftit idejhom, ma għandniex xi ngħidu mingħajr ma jixtiequ, biex jgħinu lil ­dawn l-entitajiet li jagħmlu parti minn dan il-­Kiżmu. U ġieli wkoll, bil­-għajnuna ta’ xi politikant, riżorsi finanzjarji pubbliċi jiġu mgħoddija lil dawn l­-entitajiet privati, biex jgħinhom jerġgħu iqumu fuq saqajhom. Ma għadniex xi ngħidu li dan kollu wkoll jsir fl­interess u għall-ġid tal-­poplu kollu… dejjem kif jgħidu. Imma din il­-ġirja, dejjem kif jgħidu, fl-­interss tal-­poplu, u kif qatt ma jingħad, bil­-għan ta’ gwadan materjalistiku individwali, wasslet ukoll biex kull rokna tiġi sfruttata għal dawn l-għanijiet.

Hekk naraw li bit­-teknoloġija tal­-lum wasslet, fost oħrajn,  biex dak li ħalaq il­-Ħallieq jinħass li mhux tajjeb biżżejjed u għalhekk irid jiġi modifikat biex isir aħjar. Naraw li organiżmi ħajjin qed jiġu ġenetikament modifikati (GMOs)  b’mod l­-aktar mgħaġġel biex iwasslu ikel fuq il-­platt tal­-popli. Ma hemmx għalfejn ngħidu li dan kollu qed isir ukoll għall-­ġid tal­-popli… dejjem kif jgħidu. Imma t-­teknoloġija tal-­lum wasslet ukoll biex turi li dawn il-­GMOs jistgħu jkollhom impatt negattiv fuq is-saħħa mhux biss tan­-nies imma anki fuq l­-ekosistema. Ngħidu aħna dawn jistgħu jwasslu għall­-mard bħall-ażma, kankru u anki jistgħu, kif jingħad wkoll, ikollhom impatt fuq il­-fertilità tal-­bniedem. Dan biex ma nsemmux li jagħmlu ħsara wkoll lill-ekosistema minħabbba l-­kimika li tintuża fil-­ħolqien u tkabbir ta’ dawn l-organiżmi ġenetikament modifikati, kif ukoll fl­-użu tal-­kimika marbuta mat­-tkabbir tagħhom li tiġi mbexxa fuq l­-uċuħ tar­-raba’, li jkollha mhux biss impatt negattiv fuq il­-biodiversità, jiġifieri l-­ħlejjaq ta’ fawna u ta’ flora, u l-ambjent fiżiku tagħhom, bħal ngħidu aħna l-ilmijiet u l-­art. U bażi ta’ dan kollu hija li dan qed isir għall-­ġid u fl­-interess tal-­poplu wkoll… dejjem kif jgħidu. Il­-prinċipju ta’ prekawzjoni ma jidher imkien. Saħansitra anki l-Papa tkellem ukoll fuq l-­impatt ta’ dan fuq il­-popli, u ġie mxebbah ma’ Marxist!

Imma llum ukoll, it-­tekonoloġija wżata b’mod ġust u xieraq u b’mod professjonali u etiku, wasslet ukoll biex qajmet kuxjenxa pubblika b’saħħitha fejn il-­popli qed jgħidu li mhumiex lesti li jiġu mitmugħa ross bil­-labra. U din il-­kuxjenza hija mħassba fuq saħħitha u l-­ambjent naturali li jweżinna lkoll. Din  qiegħda dejjem tikber u tissaħħaħ filwaqt li qiegħda tgħid li ma tridx ikel modifikat la għaliha u lanqas għall­-bhejjem tagħha, kif ma tridx lanqas bexx ta’ kimika mbexxa fuq l-­art b’rabta tat­-tkabbir ta’ dawn il­-GMOs.

Din il-­kuxjenża pubblika qed tikber saħansitra anki fl-Amerika li weldet il­-kapitaliżmu, u tat sehemha biex immodifikatu f’K­iżmu, fejn insibu wkoll l-akbar kumpaniji jaħdmu l-­GMOs li jbigħuh madwar id-dinja kollha. Tant din il-­kuxjenza ġdida qed tinħass fl-­Amerika li wasslet il-kumpaniji jħossu l-­bżonn l­-għajnuna politika biex tgħinhom ħalli jkunu jistgħu jkomplu jitimgħu l-­popli tad­-dinja, dejjem kif jgħidu. U bħalissa għaddejja kampanja kbira minnhom biex iġegħlu l-­gvern Amerikan japprova li tikketti tal-prodotti tal-­ikel ġenetikament modifikat ikunu jistgħu jneħħu kull referenza mit-­tikketta li dawn għandhom xi tip ta’  GMOs fihom. Kif qalu, jekk fuq it-­tikketta jkun hemm xi ħjiel ta’ GMOs fil­-prodott, dan ma jinxtarax minħabba l­-kuxjenza kbira kontrihom: il­-ġid tal-­poplu issa waqa’ fit-­tieni post. U hemm politikanti li qed jgħinu biex jintlaħaq dan il­-għan.

L-­Unjoni Ewropea qed tirrifjuta li taċċetta dan in­-nuqqas ta’ tagħrif fuq it-tikketti. Jista’ wieħed jaħseb x’jinqala, jekk xi ħadd imur biex jinxtri karozza u l­-bejjiegħ jgħidlu li ma jistax jara l-­magna u d­-dettalji tagħha għax mhux fl­-interess tiegħu?  Imma fl-­ikel… Wieħed jista’ kważi kważi jgħid li l-­operaturi f’din is-sistema ekonomika ġdida saru wkoll ir-regolaturi, u l-istati li kienu r-­regolaturi issa saru l-­benefatturi.

Dan il-Kiżmu qed ikompli jikber, u jidher ukoll li mhux ’l bogħod minn xtutna. Diġa jidher li hemm kuxjenza politika li lesta li tilqgħu b’idejha miftuha. Sadanittant l-­ambjent u l­-popli qed ikomplu jħallsu l-­prezzijiet moħbija biex dan il­-K­iżmu jkompli jikber, u jistgħana, dejjem kif jgħidu… għall-­ġid tal-­poplu kollu!

Hemm bżonn  li l­-poplu jkollu aktar sehem fid-deċiżjonijiet u fit-­tmexxija tal-­pajjiż, u dan għall­-ġid veru tal-poplu.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com


The greener it can get

November 29, 2013

times

The greener it can get

Friday, November 29, 2013, 

Alfred E. Baldacchino

The Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 which will eventually be submitted to the European Commission for funding, was discussed at a public consultation earlier this month.

Consulttion Document cover

The synopsis presented contains positive ideas. The full report was not available being ‘a long and detailed document’ and ‘not easy to use for public consultation’. This greatly hindered more indepth suggestions and comments. Could it not have been uploaded on the department’s website?

The synopsis is based on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of rural development based on five themes, with objectives and activities for funding.

Theme 1 deals with water, wastes and energy.
Can water be managed in the absence of a national water policy? The present fragmented ‘management’ reveals a ministry digging a tunnel to channel rain water directly to the sea. Another purifying sewage water and dumping it in the sea. A corporation managing and distributing potable water while a secretariat is trying to plug holes and mend cracks in water reservoirs and cisterns.

Such lack of coordination and waste of financial resources, most of which are coming from the EU, does not augur well. This was also pointed out by the representative of the Malta Water Association during the public consultation, adding that lack of access to the original draft report restricts discussions.

Activities suggest investment “in water management, abstraction…” Does this mean that abstraction will be funded when this is being tackled by another ministry trying to control and regulate it?

Theme 2 deals with Maltese quality produce, highlighting the need for quality assurance, poor enforcement of regulations and support for adding value as the major opportunities. The GMOs Pandora’s Box that farmers and consumers are being offered and possibly swallowing and the ever-increasing public rejection of GMOs can be capitalised upon by the farming community. Not only was this not even referred to but a farmer’s representative was heard saying that farmers cannot do without GMOs!

Theme 3 refers to sustainable livestock.
A positive item under activities to be funded is the support “for activities that reduce livestock farms’ impact on the climate and environment”. This can perhaps address the issue of past EU funds used to build such livestock farms on sensitive water table areas, rendering the water so nutrient rich and unusable.

Theme 4 deals with landscape and the environment.
The objectives are great and the wording is even nicer. But this is another subject where fragmentation reigns supreme.

Landscaping is under the responsibility of the Ministry for Transport where the main driving force is devoid of any ecological input. Mepa is the competent authority (on paper) under the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office. It is no secret that Mepa has rarely raised a finger to protect any tree and often turns a blind eye to all mutilation, uprooting, chemically-killed trees and introduction of alien species.

Local councils, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Tourism, go on a rampage ‘pruning’ trees with no questions asked.

The reply to my question as to who will be the regulator in such landscaping was no reply at all, sending shivers down my spine. The sanest political, technical, administrative, ecological, economical, legal way forward is that the regulator has to be the Minister for the Environment. This will ensure that there will not be any cow itch trees, fountain grass, flame trees et al. or turf growing in rural areas. And EU funds will be used in line with EU obligations, not as has happened in the past.

The economic bias of such a
report completely dwarfs the
sensitive ecological obligations

The funding of “new skills and knowledge (that) will be required in terms of landscape management, ecological understanding, conservation and practical skills” is a good idea if well managed and executed professionally.

The maintenance and restoration of rubble walls brought a rumble of disappointments by many who have been waiting for five and more years to restore the breach in their rubble walls. Breaches in rubble walls contribute to soil erosion, which fills valleys, and eventually is carried out to sea. Cannot photos and videos record such breaches to allow their immediate restoration and then farmers be reimbursed by the RDP?

rubble wall builder - The Times

Breaches in rubble walls contribute to soil erosion, which fills valleys, and eventually is carried out to sea (Photo: The Times)

A one day’s wait, especially during the rainy season, is too long for this fragile environment, resulting in ecological and additional expenses.

The wider rural economy and quality of life are addressed under theme 5
Among the objectives listed is the development of bed-and-breakfast business, which is also a good objective. However, if its implementation does not encompass the ecological impact it can be bizarre in such a small island State, the more so when experts and representatives involved in such activity omit biodiversity experts and the Ministry for the Environment, whether by conviction or for convenience.

The unnumbered delivery section outlines other actions, including ‘valley management/landscape management partnerships’ and a ‘rural resource hub’.

The first is urgently necessary even from an ecological point of view but, God forbid, if this is executed on the lines of past years without any holistic professional input but just by bulldozing earth to temporarily please the eye and inflict ecological damage.

The ‘rural resource hub’ is also welcome and can fill the void and neglect so conspicuous during the last decade. The once beneficial government experimental farm has, during the last years, been used more by domestic cats, dogs and pets. The once experimental farm can help educate, train, give technical knowledge advice and hands-on experience to all stakeholders in rural development.

These are but a few reflections and suggestions on the abridged consultation document, without having access to the original draft and keeping in mind that “precise details may well change over the next year, as discussions and agreement are still being developed in Brussels”.

Unfortunately, the economic bias of such a report completely dwarfs the sensitive ecological obligations. The outline nonetheless contains important and useful points that can contribute to rural development and Maltese biodiversity with some dotting of the i’s and crossing of thet t’s.

aebaldacchino@gmail.com
alfredbaldacchino.wordpress.com
Alfred E. Baldacchino is a former assistant director at Mepa’s environment directorate.


Ġej il-Milied u… dak dundjan!

November 27, 2013

NewsBook

L-Erbgħa, 27 ta’ Novembru, 2013.

Ġej il-Milied u… dak dundjan!

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Waħda mill-­aktar festi kbar tas­-sena hija l-­Milied, għall­-anqas għal dawk li jħaddnu t-­twemmin u jemmnu fit-­twelid ta’ Ġesu Kristu. U waħda mill­karatteristiċi ta’ din il-­festa hija l-­ikla mal­-familja nhar il-­Milied. Niftakar meta kelli madwar għaxar snin, in-­Nanna Karmena kienet issajjar ħasi-serduq imsewwi biex ma jaħlix enerġija żejda u hekk jikber akbar fid-­daqs.

Bħalma ħadna l-­lingwa Ingliża mill­-Ingliżi, minn għandhom ħadna wkoll id­-drawwa li nieklu dundjan minflok ħasi għall-­ikla ta’ nofsinhar.dundjan 2

Huwa għalhekk li matul dawn il-­ġranet it-­talba għad­-dundjani tikber. Hemm żewġ għejjun minn fejn nixtru dawn id­-dundjani għall-­imwejjed tagħna: jew minn dawk li jitrabbu u jissemmnuhom hawn Malta, jew mingħand dawk li jimportawhom.

Illum il-­ħajja hija waħda mgħaġġla: imsejjsa, marbuta u mbuttata minn għan ewlieni li jgħola fuq kull għan ieħor etiku, morali, u kuxjentuż: l-­għan ta’ gwadan materjali fl-­anqas ħin possibbli. U ma hemm l-­ebda rokna jew qasam li mhux mittiefes minn dan il-­għan, anki fil-­qasam tal­-ikel.

Skont kif jaħdem is­-suq, aktar ma jkun hemm talba għall-­prodott, aktar il-prezz ikun għoli, u aktar mal­-prezz ikun għoli aktar ikun hemm ħeġġa biex tikber il-­ħażna għall-­bejgħ. Barra minn Malta, dawk li jkabbru d­-dundjani jagħmlu ħilithom kollha biex ikollhom l­-akbar numru possibbli ta’ dawn it­tjur biex ikunu jistgħu jilqgħu għal din it­-talba. U aktar dawn ma jkunu kbar u ‘sbieħ’ aktar dawn jinxtraw. U ma għandiex xi ngħidu li anki fil-­qasam tal­-ikel l-­ewwel ma tiekol l-­għajn.

dundjani 3

L-­akbar numru ta’ dundjani possibbli jitkabbru fil­-fabbriki tal-­annimali fil-­gaġġeg u jkunu fuq xulxin. Minħabba hekk dawn jingħataw dożi żgħar ta’ antibijotiċi biex ma jkunx hemm mard u infezzjonijiet. U ġieli d-­doża tiżdied xi ftit biex tgħinhom jikbru akbar u aktar malajr ukoll. Iżda studji xjentifiċi sabu li mikrobi li jifilħu għal dawn l­-antibijotiċi jitrabbew fid­-dundjani . U dawn il-­mikrobi jistgħu wkoll jgħaddu għand dawk li jieklu d­-dundjani, tant li meta dawn ikollhom bżonn l­-antibijotiċi, dawn ma jaħdmux fuqhom.

Sadanittant, l-­Unjoni Ewropea qed tieħu passi biex bil-­mod twaqqaf l­-użu ta’ mediċina fuq l-­annimali li jkunu qed jitkabbru għall-­ikel, jekk din il­-mediċina ma tingħatax għall-­għan ewlenin ta’ mard.

Dan mill­-ewwel juri li l-­konsumatur Malti għandu bżonn malajr kemm jista’ jkun aktar tagħrif dwar l-­ikel li qed jiekol. Minbarra mediċina li tintuża fuq l-­annimali li qed jiekol, hemm ukoll l­-użu tal-­pestiċidi u aktar u aktar l­-organiżmi ġenetikament modifikati li jitpoġġew fuq is­-suq.  Ix­-xerrej għandu jkun jaf x’qed jixtri, biex b’hekk ikun jista’ jagħżel hu dak li jixtieq. Dan mhux biss biex ikollu għażla imma anki biex ikun żgur li l-­ikel li jkun qed jiekol ma jkollux effett fuq saħħtu mingħajr ma jkunx jaf.

Wieħed mill-­passi li jistgħu jittieħdu huwa li l-­prodotti tal-­ikel ikollhom tikketta li sserraħ moħħ ix­-xerrej. F’dan il­-każ tad­-dunjani, biex ma ninfirxux ħafna, kull dunjdjan mibjugh jista’ jkollu fuqu kitba li tidher u li tgħid jekk hux  “impurtat minn (pajjiż). Ma fihx antibiotiċi” jew “Imkabbar u msemmen Malta”.

U hawn jista’wkoll igawdi l­-bidwi Malti li b’daqsxejn għajnuna jista’ jiġi mgħejjun biex irabbi, kemm annimali kemm ħxejjex li ma jkollhomx fiħom mediċina u kimika. Ma għandniex xi ngħidu dawn jistgħu iqumu xi ftit aktar, imma konsumatur edukat ikun lest li jħallas ftit aktar għall-­ikel għax jaf li sejjer ikun qed jiffranka l-­flus li jkun irid jonfoq minħabba saħħtu.

Kif jgħidu s­suq is­suq. U hija biss it-­talba jew in-­nuqqas tagħha li tista’ twassal biex ix-­xerrej isib il-­prodott li jixtieq u jrid hu u mhux li jiġi mogħti lilu.

dundjan 5

Nixtieq minn hawn nawgura lill-­qarrejja tan-­NewsBook il­-Milied ħieni, mimli risq, saħħa, u paċi…  u l­-ikla t-­tajba. Imma kull bil­-għaqal!


In search of tiger’s documents

January 11, 2010

Tuesday, 15th September 2009

Talking Point

In search of tiger’s documents

Alfred E. Baldacchino

Following the red palm weevil, the Geranium bronze butterfly and other alien species, which got a foothold on these islands, now a Bengal tiger has surfaced on a rooftop! Without doubt, this felid was brought to Malta, either imported from a country outside the European Union or transported from one of the EU member states.

The Bengal tiger hunts medium to large prey such as wild pigs, deer, antelopes and buffalo. This second largest wild big cat can reach a length of three metres from head to tail and weigh about 250 kilogrammes. It can jump a horizontal leap of 10 metres and a vertical jump of five metres. It is estimated that there are fewer than 3,000 wild Bengal tigers, each having a minimum territory of 20 square kilometres.

Because of widespread illegal trade in wild animals and plants, which, incidentally, is second only to international drug trafficking, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) came into force in 1973. The Bengal tiger is listed in the convention’s Appendix I, which includes the most endangered animals and plants threatened with extinction. International trade in such species is prohibited. In exceptional cases trade may take place provided it is authorised by the granting of both an import permit and an export permit. This means that:

If the Bengal tiger was legally imported from outside the EU, the Maltese Cites management authority, which is Mepa, had to issue an import permit after the scientific authority had given its advice that the import will not be detrimental to the species involved. An importation and export permit from country of origin had to be surrendered to Mepa.

If the Bengal tiger was transported to Malta from within the EU, then two EU wildlife trade regulations, (EC) 338 of 1997 and (EC) 865 of 2006, which implement the provision of Cites, come in play. The object of these regulations is to protect species of wild fauna and flora and to guarantee their conservation by regulation trade therein. The introduction into the Community of specimens of the species listed in Cites Appendix I is subject to the completion of the necessary checks and the prior presentation of documents at the border Customs office at the point of introduction, which member states have designated and notified the EU and Cites secretariat accordingly.

If the Bengal tiger was imported legally, then Mepa, which is the management authority both for Cites and also for the EU regulations, should have all the documents at its finger tips. If it does not have any, then the Bengal tiger was imported into Malta, and into the EU, illegally.

The importation and exportation of wild flora and fauna is not just the responsibility of Mepa, which is just concerned with the ecological aspect. Nonetheless, the importation of living species can have a social and an economical negative impact, something the local administrative entitles are finding it so difficult to apprehend. Poisonous species like snakes and spiders are of concern to the Ministry for Social Policy, responsible for health. Dangerous animals, like felids, chimpanzees and also reptiles, also fall within the wing of the ministry responsible for veterinary services.

The Veterinary Service Act designates a “border inspection post” for carrying out veterinary inspections by veterinary officers on imported live animals. The EU and Cites both have been notified of these specific posts. This means that the Bengal tiger had to enter Malta through one of these designated posts, accompanied not only by the Cites/EU documentation but also by a veterinary health certificate issued by the country of origin. The Animal Welfare Act, administered by the veterinary services within the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs, is also responsible for the monitoring of ill treatment of animals and aggressive animals that may present a danger to the safety of man or other animals and which are classified as such by the minister. These animals shall not be bred, imported or sold in Malta.

In another section of the press, the Director of Animal Welfare is reported as having said that the Bengal tiger is being taken good care of, has an air-conditioned room, is fed chickens and there are no indications that it has bothered anyone from the surroundings. Yet, no mention has been made of any veterinary health certificate that had to be surrendered to the veterinary services at the border inspection post, more important as felids are included in the Fourth Schedule of the Veterinary Service Act.

So while a search for the importation and veterinary documents is being conducted, the Bengal tiger is comfortably in an airconditioned room, eating chickens. And during such search for the legal documents, will it come of age and start searching for a mate? Will it do the Houdini act? When pigs can fly in Malta, why cannot their predator fly too? Will it be infected by some endemic virus and be eaten by rats overnight? Time will tell. In the meantime, the search from all sides goes on. But the most important question, considering the above legal provisions, is: But how on earth did such a blessed tiger manage to surface on an urban rooftop?

aebaldacchino@gmail.com