RSPB Holiday island a deathtrap for birds


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Cyprus may be a dream destination for those wanting to catch the last of the autumn rays, but BirdLife Cyprus — the RSPB's BirdLife partner on the island — reckons that for over one third of a million birds the island has been a death-trap in the first two weeks of September, as the island's illegal bird-trapping season gets into full swing. The toll has been estimated following BirdLife's field monitoring of trapping activity with mist nets and lime-sticks, as part of its ongoing systematic surveillance programme. The birds, including Robins and Blackcaps, are killed to supply restaurants with the local delicacy ambelopoulia. The autumn trappers target birds migrating between Europe and Africa.

"We estimate that, so far this autumn, some 395,000 birds have been killed illegally using mist nets and lime-sticks in Cyprus. We know that the autumn season is the main trapping period and this number is certain to get much bigger over the next two months, unless decisive action is taken now to back up enforcement efforts", said Martin Hellicar, Campaigns Manager of BirdLife Cyprus.

Tim Stowe is the RSPB's International Director. Commenting on the slaughter, he said: "Almost 400,000 birds are estimated to have been killed in Cyprus in the first half of September; that's an average of one bird every four seconds. This is shocking enough, but the real surprise for many people is the fact that many of these birds will have been killed within a short distance of the island's holiday hotspots, such as Ayia Napa, and a substantial number have been killed inside the UK administered Sovereign Base Areas, especially Dhekelia. This slaughter is completely illegal under European, Cyprus and Sovereign Base Area law. It beggars belief how Cyprus, a member of the European Union, and the Sovereign Base Area authorities can allow this massacre to continue year after year. It's time that Cyprus and the UK administrations got a grip of this problem before the island becomes the shame of Europe."

Nightingale, Cyprus (Photo: John Peacock)

This death toll reported here represents the estimated number of birds killed up to Sunday 19th September 2011. The estimate will be updated on the BirdLife Cyprus website every Monday until the end of October. BirdLife Cyprus has also launched an appeal to gather signatures for a petition to be sent to Cyprus ministers urging them to take action. In July, the European Conference on Illegal Killing of Birds that took place in Larnaca concluded with a clear "zero tolerance" message and an urgent call for appropriate measures to stop the bird slaughter. BirdLife Cyprus is now calling for words to be turned into action by all competent authorities at all levels. BirdLife is once again calling for decisive action against the restaurants serving the trapped birds, for targeted enforcement against big, organised trapping operations and for tougher sentences for convicted trappers.

In autumn 2010 BirdLife Cyprus estimated that 1.4 million birds were killed by trappers in the Famagusta and Larnaca Districts, an unprecedented death toll representing the highest trapping levels recorded since 2002, when BirdLife Cyprus begun its systematic monitoring of trapping activity. "Such levels of trapping constitute an ecological disaster. Non-selective trapping is taking place on a large scale to feed the demand for banned ambelopoulia delicacies. We want to communicate the scale of this slaughter to the generally indifferent public in order to make them more aware of the issue and its ecological impact", Martin Hellicar added.

The details of the death toll estimation and the methodology, as well as the petition, can be found on the BirdLife Cyprus website, together with information on why bird trapping with mist nets and limesticks is such a big ecological issue.

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The information in this article was believed correct at the time of writing. BirdGuides accepts no responsibility for errors, or for any consequences of acting on information in the article. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily shared by BirdGuides Ltd.

hide section Reader comments (9)

This massacre should be a major embarassment to Cyprus and have all other European nations up in arms. It is a sad indictment that "Europe" shrugs its shoulders and turns a blind eye. Well done to those brining the horrific CRIME to the attention of the masses. If tour operators stopped running holidays to Cyprus and the public chose somewhere else to get legless on cheap booze people might sit up.
   Hugh Pugh, 01/10/11 12:59Report inappropriate post Report 
I think you need to look at what also goes on elsewhere within Europe. The comment 'Have all other European nations up in arms' will be lost amongst some of them. It is very wrong to suggest stop going to Cyprus, there are a lot decent people there and there are plenty of people that get legless on cheap booze in quite a few other European Countries where illegal hunting and trapping goes on. You also must remember some of the shame is ours - as some of the illegal activity goes on on land...more more
   Chris Lamsdell, 01/10/11 16:09Report inappropriate post Report 
It might help if certain internet auction sites stopped selling mist nets and bird traps! Some are even advertised as coming from Malta!
   Michael Gould, 03/10/11 21:11Report inappropriate post Report 
Absolutely disgusting this is still going on!! I refuse to go to Cyprus/Malta because of this. I read an article a couple of years ago where they catch migrating birds such as robins on lime sticks and then prick their windpipe to kill them. They also kill swallows, swifts, herons, egrets, kestrals, storks, doves, nightingales, osprey, finches the list goes on. Its barbaric that the Maltese government seem to turn a blind eye.
   aly, 06/10/11 17:51Report inappropriate post Report 
@ Michael Gould Could you please post the internet address or where you have seen advertisment that one can buy mist nets from Malta. @ aly It seems you belive everything that your partners tell you. Check out this link. http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20111006/letters/Those-who-harm-the-image-of-Malta.387931
   Joe Camilleri, 07/10/11 11:28Report inappropriate post Report 
Not from Malta, and therefore marginally off-topic possibly, but I was horrifed to see how many mist nets are freely available from eBay. Some (check out item 270826457855) even include "taxidermy" in their title and contain illustrative pictures of trapped birds. Supposedly for 'keeping birds off fruit'. Is it legal to openly advertise for sale/buy mist nets in this country?
   Hugh Pugh, 07/10/11 13:40Report inappropriate post Report 
In previous months mist nets and other items have been for sale from Malta. However, plenty of UK people are also selling them. I didn't mean to only pick out Malta. It is possible to see where some of the buyers come from too. I've been told it's not illegal to sell or have but only to use. What can we do?
   Michael Gould, 07/10/11 19:19Report inappropriate post Report 
Trapping, netting and liming are widespread and blatant on Cyprus, as well as indiscriminate. At the resort of Nisi there is an island a few yards off the beach, holidaymakers wade out to it. On this island there are dozens of galvanised metal pipes concreted into the rock, these are to hold lime-sticks in the season, in full view of the beach. Liming equipment is on open sale in Larnaca market. On the Eastern Sovereign Base I have found that the SBA police at Dhekelia are willing to...more more
   Clive Stevenson, 09/10/11 22:18Report inappropriate post Report 
To report poaching: You will find here a standard form for reporting poaching incidents to BirdLife Cyprus. You can send completed forms to us by post (P.O. Box 28076, Nicosia 2090), email birdlifecyprus@birdlifecyprus.org.cy or fax 22 455 073. We can then use your information to build a dossier on illegal shooting, add to our data from systematic monitoring of bird trapping activity (ongoing since 2002) and update the relevant authorities (Game Fund). or Contact numbers for responsible...more more
   Chris Lamsdell, 10/10/11 08:26Report inappropriate post Report 

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