Environment: migratory birds, ecological disaster in Cyprus

2.8 million birds killed or captured illegally in 2011

01 March, 17:32

Migrant birds targeted in Cyprus Migrant birds targeted in Cyprus

(ANSAmed) - NICOSIA - Deaf to appeals by local, international and EU ecologists, the Cypriot authorities are continuing to play a role in a serious environmental disaster. Last year, in the southern part of the island, 2.8 million migratory birds, many of them belonging to rare and protected species, were illegally captured and killed.

The slaughter of biblical proportions (last year's death toll was an estimated 1.4 million) has once again been condemned by the Cypriot environmentalist group BirdLifeCyprus, which has just published its latest report on the situation, which says that those mainly responsible for the killings are not only hunters but also poachers, with an illegal market now accounting for millions of euros per year. There is a merciless hunt for small migratory birds - mainly blackcaps, chaffinches, zitting cisticolas and hoopoes - which are illegally captured and then served as delicacies in restaurants on the island at a cost of 80 euros for a plate of 12. During the winter, hunters especially kill thrushes and robins, while summer is the season in which migratory birds are targeted. In Cyprus, where the birds pass between March and April and between August and October, their capture is forbidden by law but widely tolerated by the local authorities. Poachers are therefore able to act untroubled using wide nets with thin meshing spread among the trees or sticks infused with gluey substances hidden in bushes. The method causes the slow death of the trapped bird from hunger and thirst, and its use has increased by 300% compared to last year, a figure that suggests that poachers are far from dissuaded by potential legal penalties.

In July of last year, a major European conference on bird poaching was held in the city of Larnaca, the first time that Cyprus had staged such an event. The conference was attended by over 100 experts from a range of European countries, who underlined the need for a "zero tolerance" approach towards poaching and called on all of the competent European and local authorities to act to put an end to the slaughter. "Unfortunately, 2011 figures paint a picture that completely contradicts the decisions taken in the conference and measures must be adopted immediately to stop the illegal capture of the birds," said a Birdlife spokesperson.

In a joint statement from Germany, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the Cypriot section of Friends of the Earth (FOE) have announce that volunteers have found 3,817 traps in only 2 weeks, as well as 23 nets with invisible meshing and 32 electronic decoys in the island's south-eastern Famagusta area alone, which has one of the highest concentration of bird passage. "This is in stark contrast with the relatively weak efforts of the police in this critical area, where pressure on migratory birds through illegal capture is at its highest," say CABS and FOE.

The local hunting organisation and the anti-poaching division of the Cypriot police have significantly stepped up their efforts to tackle the illegal capture of birds, the two organisations say. The report by Birdlife, however, clearly shows that the efforts made by the authorities to tackle poaching in the eastern area of Larnaca, which includes the British military base in Dekelia and the Famagusta area, are significantly weaker than in other affected areas. "The only conclusion can be that political reasons have a role in this," say the CABS and the FOE, adding that this is why practical cooperation on the ground with police is very limited. "This is disappointing, as closer cooperation would have led to the seizure of a greater number of traps and more trials against poachers, and would have discouraged physical attacks on environmentalists searching for traps and nets across the island," the organisations say. (ANSAmed).

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