Seventy years after the Second World War there is a second battle going on in Malta. As an amateur historian who studies the war I know Malta has earned its place in history. Now its time once again for the people of Malta to rise up in the defence of their island.
During the Second World War Malta was the most bombed place on earth as the RAF fought the Luftwaffe for control of the stategically placed island. Last year I saw a programme on the BBC about the battle in which the historian James Holland found the remains of a Spitfire still buried in a field. During the war the bravery of all the people was officially recognised by King George VI, who awarded the George Cross to the entire island.
This time the battle for Malta features real birds, not warbirds. Chris Packham is highlighting the illegal slaughter of migrating birds over the island by hunters in a project called ‘Malta massacre on migration’. Its a self financed project which is very close to Chris’s heart. Every day this week until saturday he will post a video on YouTube at 9pm UK time to publicise the slaughter.
“Our mission is to generate a wider awareness of this heinous practice with frank and factual reports from the frontline where our much loved migrant birds are being shot in huge numbers. It will not be pretty, the species killed include many UK favourites and rarities and the hunters are infamous for being confrontational and violent. I don’t care, this is not a holiday, it’s an attempt to bring this forgotten issue to a wider public attention and then to offer a couple of ways the viewers can actually do something to effect positive change”.
Malta massacre on migration exactly illustrates what I admire most about Chris Packham and what makes him different from other natural history TV presenters. Who else would use their own money to highlight an issue like this and put themselves literally in the firing line in the name of conservation?
When I interviewed Chris back in 2010 for the Independent newspaper I wrote “Throughout his career, Packham has never fought shy of speaking his mind. In the past year, this has seen him credited in the media with waging war on pandas, dormice, insect-eating celebrities and, most recently, tigers”.
“I don’t court controversy for the sake of it, but I do want to start a debate”, he told me. I concluded the interview by saying “And that is what makes Chris Packham so special. He is not on our screens because he wants to be a famous presenter, but because it gives him a platform from which to shout about what really matters to him: conserving our rapidly vanishing wildlife”.
Now Chris is again using his celebrity status but this time to go into battle with the Maltese hunters who are shooting our birds out of the sky. Its a battle we must all help him to win and end this senseless massacre. So please go to his website and find out how you can help. Later this year there will be a referendum on the issue facilitated by BirdLife Malta. Over seventy years after Malta won the George Cross, it may finally silence the guns for good.
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