Nature Reserve Forced to Start Over After Olive Grove Destroyed by Vandals

Ray Vella was making his rounds through the nature reserve where he worked when he made a tragic discovery about the woodland's olive grove. Some time over the weekend vandals had destroyed the trees.

Jun. 29, 2017
By Anthony Vasquez-Peddie

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Ray Vella was mak­ing his rounds through the nature reserve where he worked June 12 when he made a tragic dis­cov­ery about the wood­land’s olive grove.

When I got there Monday I found all 36 trees had been chain­sawed and were on the ground,” the Foresta 2000 Ranger told Olive Oil Times.

For every bad deed there is good and that the Maltese soci­ety will stand up to such igno­rant and harm­ful acts.- Julian Sammut, Alfred Mizzi Foundation

We were sup­posed to har­vest them, but I guess now it’s going to be a bit of a prob­lem.”

Some time over the week­end, van­dals had destroyed the crop. The pub­lic reserve, located in Mellieha, Malta, believes the act was pre­med­i­tated.

This is not the first time we’ve had van­dal­ism,” Vella said while describ­ing some of the prob­lems the rel­a­tively young reserve has had with locals.

When we first started 12 years ago it was a sort of free-for-all. We had four-wheel drive vehi­cles using the area for ille­gal off-course dri­ving. We’ve also had ille­gal hunt­ing in there, because it’s an old hunt­ing zone.”

In September 2004, about 100 trees were uprooted and dam­aged along with fenc­ing and signs. On three sep­a­rate occa­sions between July and September of 2006, there were arson attempts. In May 2007, an overnight attack cut down 3,000 trees. in April 2010, 104 trees were dam­aged, which led to the con­vic­tion of three hunters. They were fined about €12,300 each.

In addi­tion to van­dal­ism, a ranger was shot in April 2009 and had to be hos­pi­tal­ized.

The lat­est act caused an esti­mated €3,600 in dam­age.

After news of the olive grove’s destruc­tion spread, dona­tions poured in for the reserve from indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing The Alfred Mizzi Foundation, which is ded­i­cated to safe­guard­ing Maltese cul­ture, her­itage and envi­ron­ment.

Perpetrators of van­dal­ism like this must know that for every bad deed there is good and that the Maltese soci­ety will stand up to such igno­rant and harm­ful acts,” foun­da­tion trustee Julian Sammut said.

There’s more good news. Vella has been work­ing to pre­serve what’s left of the olive trees, which were planted using grafts, and the signs are pos­i­tive.

I dug a water catch­ment hole around them and I gave them a good dous­ing of water,” he said. They’ve already started show­ing a bit of regrowth from last week. You can see already some of them are com­ing back out again.

I think I’ll be able to save the major­ity of them.”

The first olive trees, 24 of them, were planted in 2009 and a fur­ther 12 were added in 2010.

It’s a set­back because we had reached a good height and a good girth, but we just have to start all over again,” he said.

Foresta 2000 is home to about 21,000 trees and shrubs, all planted within the last 12 years. The reserve’s goal is to fill the space with wild trees, with the excep­tion of the olive trees, which were part of a dona­tion.



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