Dinja Waħda Rangers clean up Natura 2000 site to help protect threatened seabirds
On Wednesday morning, 17 Dinja Waħda Environment Rangers- year 5 students from Lia-Balzan-Iklin Primary School- helped to clean up litter at the L-Ahrax-Rdum tal-Madonna Natura 2000 site as part of BirdLife Malta’s programme forDinja Waħda environmental primary schools.
Wearing Dinja Waħda Ranger badges sponsored by the European Commission Representation in Malta, the group removed litter, mostly plastic food packaging, cans and paper packaging, from an area of woodland used as a campsite in this highly protected area, in a hands-on conservation management activity to help protect the threatened wildlife found at the site.
“Keeping the area clear of litter is very important for the native plants and animals that live here,” said Thomas Hendry, Assistant Warden at the site. “The waste people leave behind when they visit is not just unsightly, it also attracts rats, which damage the young trees growing here and are especially harmful to the shearwaters that nest on the sea-cliffs nearby, as they can get into the crevices where they nest and eat the eggs and even the young chicks.”
Before the clean-up the Rangers went on a guided walk around the garrigue, and woodland habitats with BirdLife Malta Field Teacher, Jason Aloisio, who helped them to identify some of the many native plants.
Rdum tal-Madonna is one of Malta’s flagship Natura 2000 sites, protected both for the rare habitats it supports and for the colony of Yelkouan Shearwaters (Garnija in Maltese), the largest in the Maltese Islands, that breed at the site every year.
Recent findings suggest that litter does not only pose a threat to shearwaters at their breeding sites, but is also causing problems for them at sea, where the adult birds can mistake small pieces of plastic litter for food and swallow it- causing it to build uo in their stomachs and even bring it back to their nests to feed to their chicks.
“This why it is so important for the future survival of these birds that we identify and protect the areas at seas where they go to feed,” said BirdLife Malta’s Nicholas Barbara, Manager of the EU Life+ Malta Seabird Project. “By helping to remove litter from the cliffs close to where the birds breed, these young environmentalists are not only protecting the birds on land, they are helping to reduce the amount of plastic litter being blown out to sea and potentially ending up in the stomachs of young birds instead of food.”
This year, the activity has been planned to coincide with the Let’s Clean Up Europe! European Week of Waste Reduction, to emphasise that wider significance of efforts to tackle the problem of litter, especially in protected coastal and marine habitats.
Amanda Spiteri-Grech from the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and Climate Change, and Anthony Sammut, Executive Head at Bank of Valletta, presented the children with certificates and a copy of BirdLife Malta’s Klabb Ħuttaf colouring book in recognition of their contribution to wildlife conservation.
Admirers of what these young people are achieving for nature don’t have to be spectators. This Saturday, BirdLife is organising another guided walk & clean-up in a different part of the Natura 2000 site, this time for the general public as part of the Let’s Do It! Malta national clean-up initiative.
Anyone interested in coming to this activity can just come along to the meeting point in front of the chapel at Rdum tal-Madonna at 10am. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or find the event on facebook.