08/10/2007
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Conservationists Appalled by Cyprus Bird of Prey Massacre

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Red-footed Falcon (photo: Adrian Dowling).

BirdLife Cyprus, the RSPB’s partner on the Mediterranean island, has recorded the worst reported slaughter of birds of prey on the island, and indeed Europe, in recent years. The incident, which took place within the Akrotiri British Sovereign Base Area, involved the gunning down of 52 Red-footed Falcons – a bird threatened with global extinction - migrating through the island.

In the savage incident, which took place on Friday 5th October, 46 Red-footed Falcons were recovered dead, and another six were left with horrific injuries. Mike Miltiadous, a BirdLife Cyprus research officer, said: "I have never come across such a scale of a massacre of birds of prey in Cyprus."

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The Akrotiri Sovereign Base Area shares a border with the Republic, and it is reported that hunters are taking advantage of the lack of joint anti-poaching patrols by the Sovereign Base Area Police and the Cyprus Game Fund, which regulates hunting on behalf of the Cypriot government. There are reports of hunters 'running wild' along the border between the Base and the Republic, simply stepping across the dividing line to avoid detection by the SBA police or Game Fund patrols.

Martin Hellicar, the Executive Manager of BirdLife Cyprus, said: "Friday's massacre should have been prevented by the SBA Police, but we believe it is the product of the unacceptably lax state of affairs in this part of the island."

BirdLife Cyprus also called for an immediate ban on shooting on the entire Akrotiri peninsula. Although almost all the peninsula is a protected reserve a narrow coastal strip along the west is opened for hunting of Turtle Dove and Quail from early September to mid-October.

The RSPB has been working with BirdLife Cyprus for many years to clamp down on illegal bird killing. The Society's Nicola Crockford said: "Red-footed Falcons are suffering an alarming decline in Europe. This terrible massacre must act as a catalyst for better co-operation between the Sovereign Base Area and the Cyprus Game Fund."

Written by: RSPB