Trees placed temporarily at Mosta square for birds to roost

Mosta council takes dig at activists protesting against uprooting of Ficus trees, saying it is a ‘pity’ not enough time had been given for the project to be completed before criticism was made

Photos of the trees were posted to the Mosta local council's Facebook page
Photos of the trees were posted to the Mosta local council's Facebook page

The Mosta local council has announced that eight Holm Oak Trees have been placed in the locality’s square for roosting birds.

“These Oak trees will be temporarily left in the square for everyone to enjoy, including the needs of birds, as there was a desire to do so,” the council said on Facebook.

The potted trees have been placed next to the Mosta Rotunda and will be left there temporarily.

The announcement comes around a week after the council’s U-turn to not transplant the existing Ficus trees, following protests by residents and activists.

On 3 October, the council unanimously agreed with the removal of the 12 Ficus trees next to the church and their transplanting to another area in Mosta.

The council applied for an environmental permit with ERA, indicating which trees were to be uprooted, where they would be transplanted and what trees would replace them in the square. The authority granted permission on 6 November.

The council minutes do not specify the reason why the Ficus trees should be uprooted in what appears to be an afterthought to the main square’s regeneration.

The ficus trees in question are protected by law in view of being within an urban public open space, and are one of a handful of roosting sites for white wagtails spending the winter on the Maltese Islands.

The post’s author could not resist in having a dig at those protesting against the Ficus trees’ removal, saying the Holm Oak Trees are indigenous to the Maltese islands.

“It's a pity that, as happens regularly, we don't give a chance for the project to be completed,” the post read.

The Ficus trees were home to various bird species including White Wagtails (Zakak Abjad), Common Starlings (Sturnell) and Spanish Sparrows (Għasfur tal-Bejt), which all used the birds as a roosting spot during the night. A video uploaded to social media on the night the trees were pruned showed large flocks of birds circling the area to find a roosting spot.

On the night of the announcement by the council that it would not be removing the trees, activists underscored the urgent need for a comprehensive overhaul of the Environment and Resource Authority (ERA).

Activists from Moviment Graffitti stressed that legal measures in the pipeline need to be concluded to ensure that the public is appropriately consulted on decisions taken by the ERA board.