18/01/2011
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All-time high in illegal bird-trapping in Cyprus

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This latest BirdLife International annual report details their continued monitoring of illegal bird-trapping in Cyprus. The team monitored bird-trapping activities for the ninth year from September to November. The report makes depressing reading, but the summary points are:

  • Autumn 2010 saw illegal bird-trapping on a scale unseen since BirdLife's monitoring work began nine years ago. Trapping levels may still be lower than in the 1990s, but this cannot hide the fact that we are now faced with a conservation crisis in Cyprus.
  • The team found a 75% increase in mist-net use and an 89% increase in limestick setting compared to autumn 2009. Autumn trapping levels have been on the increase over the last four years.

  • Hoopoe caught by limestick (photo: Huseyin Yorganci).

  • A nine-year high in mist-netting activity represents a serious failure on the part of both Cyprus and the UK — mist-netting levels were five times higher in the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area than in Republic areas). As EU Member States, both have obligations under the EU Birds Directive to protect birds, and migrant birds in particular.
  • The estimated death toll of around 1.4 million birds within the Famagusta and Larnaca districts represents an ecological disaster, especially when the non-selective nature of trapping is taken into account. Trappers are making hundreds of thousands of Euros by selling Blackcaps and other birds to be served up as illegal, expensive ambelopoulia delicacies.
  • A priority area for action remains the restaurants providing the economic impetus for trapping by buying and serving ambelopoulia.

  • Ambelopoulia is still served in many restaurants (photo: RSPB).

  • Priority must also be given to increasing enforcement resources on the ground and changing public attitudes to trapping and eating ambelopoulia. Clear condemnations of trapping from Ministers and other key decision-makers and opinion-formers could go a long way towards achieving a shift in public attitude. Such statements could also serve to impress upon judges the seriousness of trapping offences, leading to the imposition of deterrent penalties for those convicted, including jail sentences.

British military base on Cyprus: a focus for illegal bird killing

As many songbirds in Britain and northern Europe struggle with the icy blast of Arctic weather, many of their counterparts which have migrated to Cyprus to escape the harsh conditions are being killed by the island’s trappers in greater numbers than any year in the previous decade. Shockingly, this report by BirdLife Cyprus reveals a large proportion of these birds are trapped at Dhekelia — a UK Sovereign Base Area in the south-east of the island.


Dead Blackcaps, killed by trappers, Cyprus (photo: RSPB (rspb-images.com)).

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BirdLife Cyprus's Martin Hellicar says the island has now lost significant ground in the battle against bird trapping. He added: "The picture emerging from this autumn is one of a bird-trapping disaster unseen since we began monitoring almost 10 years ago. Bird trapping is an illegal indiscriminate practice that threatens many birds of conservation concern, especially migratory ones."

Tim Stowe is the RSPB's International Director. Commenting on the rapidly worsening situation, he said: "The millions of Britons feeding songbirds in their gardens to help them survive this harsh spell will rightly be horrified at the level of slaughter that is happening in an area of Cyprus under direct British control. The fact that more than five times the level of netting activity were recorded on the UK's Sovereign Base Area compared with the Cypriot Republic is a major embarrassment for the Ministry of Defence and the UK Government. We know that some efforts have been made to clear trapping equipment from the Base Area, but this serious organised criminal activity and annual carnage will only be ended by increasing the level of arrests and convictions."

The full report can be found online.

Written by: BirdLife International