14 Sep 2018

Obituary: bird activist Joe Sultana 1939-2018

A champion of conservation in Malta, and more widely the Mediterranean, Joe Sultana passed away on Tuesday 11th of September at the age of 78. Throughout his life, his passion and dedication for conservation inspired action both within Malta and internationally.

Joe Sultana was a passionate bird activist and a keen ornithologist © BirdLife Malta
Joe Sultana was a passionate bird activist and a keen ornithologist © BirdLife Malta
By Shannon Anstee

Sultana, who was a passionate conservationist, was one of the top experts of Maltese avifauna. He was an accomplished ornithologist, environmental activist and writer. He published a wealth of books on the Maltese and Gozitan landscape, including ‘Guide to the Birds of Malta’ in 1975 and ‘History of Ornithology in Malta’. The latter was influential in being the first book of its kind to give a comprehensive account of bird study and ornithological literature in Malta. From 1985 to 1992, he served as chairman of the European Continental Section of International Council for Bird Preservation (ICBP), prior to ICBP becoming BirdLife International.

“Joe [Sultana] was pivotal in helping us build BirdLife and will continue to be an inspiration,” Patricia Zurita, BirdLife International’s CEO said. “[We] are grateful to have had Joe's support, guidance, wisdom and leadership. Our commitment to protect the birds he loved so much stands strong, so we can honour his legacy and commitment to making Malta and the planet a better place for nature and people.”

Born in Xaghra in 1939, Joe Sultana was educated at the Gozo Lyecum and St Micheal’s Training College. Following his education, Sultana taught in government schools, where he was appointed Managing Warden at Villa Psaigon Field Study Centre in 1977.

During this period, from 1967 to 1987, Joe Sultana was the secretary and later president of the Malta Ornithological Society, now BirdLife Malta. Sultana was also the father of Mark Sultana, BirdLife Malta CEO, and remained a key member of the BirdLife Partnership over the decades.

Throughout his life, Joe Sultana was the recipient of many awards, some of which include the Multese publication award (1975), Maltese literacy award, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds medal (1996), honorary life membership to the British Ornithologist Union (1999) and membership of honour to BirdLife International (1999).

The thoughts of all the BirdLife partnership are with his family, friends and all those that were touched by Joe and his work.

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