Highly respected environmentalist and journalist Martin Abbas Hellicar died on Saturday, aged 56.

He passed away in hospital where he was being treated after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident almost two weeks ago.

Martin was the director of the non-governmental conservation organisation Birdlife Cyprus and had previously worked as a journalist for the Cyprus Mail for a period of ten years from the early nineties.

Always a keen ornithologist, moving to BirdLife Cyprus was his dream job. He worked for the organisation in a variety of different roles since 2003.

Even then he was a regular contributor to the Cyprus Mail writing on the most pressing environmental issues in Cyprus up until his accident. He believed that sustaining the biodiversity of nature as best we can was a fundamental way to help mitigate the climate crisis.

Martin completed his PhD at University of Cyprus, carrying out an ecological field study looking at the interaction of goat and sheep grazing with biodiversity in Cyprus.

His earlier studies (MRes at York University, BSc at Lancaster University) were also in ecology, and a particular area of interest is farmland birds and ecosystems. His work role focuses on saving Cyprus sites, habitats and bird species, through advocacy, communications and the running of relevant, targeted projects.

At the newspaper, he was loved by his colleagues, who all remember him for his great sense of humour, sharp writing skills and compassionate and kind character. He was one of the few former staff members who kept being invited to Cyprus Mail Christmas parties years after he was no longer on staff. 

Managing Editor of the Cyprus Mail Kyriacos Iacovides said: “Martin came to work at the Cyprus Mail as a young man in his twenties, but his youth and inexperience never stopped him from voicing his opinion and speaking out when he disagreed with you. This was because he cared about his work. At the same time he was always ready to have laugh even at himself.”

Former editor-in-chief Jean Christou said: “Martin wasn’t just a colleague. He was also a friend to many of us at the Cyprus Mail for the past 30 years, and aside from all the great work he did for the environment, the world was better place just by virtue of him being in it. We are all shocked and heartbroken at his untimely passing.”

The Green Party also made a statement, saying they had cooperated with him for many years, and offering their condolences to his family and to Birdlife Cyprus.

Former Green Party deputy leader Efi Xanthou described Martin as a “quiet force which inspired thousands”, while Tashkent nature park director Kemal Basat said, “this is a big loss for us all and for nature protection in Cyprus.”

“You inspired so many of us and you will always be remembered and continue to be our compass.”

On Sunday hundreds of tributes poured into Martin’s Facebook page from people who knew him in the environmental movement and those who knew him personally.

Alexis Hadjinicolaou described Martin as “one of the most dedicated environmental advocates in Cyprus”.

“As Director of BirdLife Cyprus Martin has devoted his life to protecting birds and their habitats, combining scientific research with active action to raise public awareness and promote ecological balance,” he wrote.

“His dedication to protecting birds and their habitats was evident in every aspect of his career. Under his leadership, BirdLife Cyprus has undertaken important projects protecting the local flora and flora,” he added.

Last October, Martin himself wrote a tribute in the Cyprus Mail to another Martin and fellow environmentalist Martin Marancos who he met in 2001 and who died suddenly last year aged 68. They had become fast friends over the years.

He wrote: “Martin Marancos was an absolute gem of a human being. He was a real character and a true gentleman; a person whose honesty, steadfastness, humility and excellent good humour meant he forged lasting collaborations and friendships. One of life’s good guys”.

Everyone who knew Martin Hellicar would say exactly the same thing about him.