UK increases efforts to stop Cyprus bird trapping


The UK's Armed Forces will keep up their efforts to stop illegal bird trapping in Cyprus after overseeing a drop of three-quarters in just a year, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster has confirmed.

The trapping of songbirds is a widespread practice in Cyprus, but British Forces Cyprus (BFC) has worked tirelessly alongside the RSPB and Birdlife Cyprus to reduce the horrific practice.

BFC personnel collect pipes illegallly laid to irrigate invasive acacia trees used to conceal songbird traps.

An annual report released in March showed that, in 2016, 888,000 illegal songbird deaths were recorded, but by the following year there were 260,000 – a drop of 76 per cent. Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster travelled to Cyprus to learn more.

He said: "The work being done by our Armed Forces and Sovereign Base Area Police has made a significant difference to the survival of these magnificent birds in Cyprus, and I applaud them for it. We will continue to do everything we can to protect them."

To further decrease bird trapping, the Sovereign Base Area Administration hosted the RSPB and Birdlife Cyprus earlier this month and agreed to a collaborative strategy for tackling bird crime in the forthcoming migration season. A key aspect to stopping the trapping is the removal of invasive acacia trees planted by trappers, and the illegal irrigation used to promote their growth. The trees are used to lure birds into fine mist nets before they are killed to make the local dish known as Ambelopoulia. Since 2014, the equivalent area of 45 football pitches of acacia has been removed and over 37 miles of irrigation pipes destroyed.

Ambelopoulia is viewed as a delicacy in some quarters, but is both unsustainable and illegal (RSPB).

The implementation of hidden surveillance cameras and the acquisition of a Sovereign Base Area Police drone, as well as increased patrols, have also helped bring bird deaths down significantly.

During a visit to the Sovereign Base Areas earlier in June, Head of International Policy Programmes for the RSPB, Andrew Callender, said: “It is great to have the opportunity to see at first-hand what the MOD are doing in preparation for the forthcoming migration season and we look forward to working even closer together in combating bird crime this year.”

The Minister's visit also presented an opportunity for defence ties between the UK and Cyprus to be reaffirmed, as Mr Lancaster signed a renewed defence co-operation agreement. This agreement brings the two nations closer together in a number of areas including maritime and air security, counter-terrorism, cyber and intelligence.

Mr Lancaster added: "The UK and Cyprus have a deep shared history and common values, including as members of the Commonwealth, which is why I'm delighted that we have agreed to continue working closer together than ever before."

More than 37 miles of irrigation pipes have now been destroyed.