9 de março de 2015
Record number of songbirds killed on British military base in Cyprus
BirdLife Cyprus reports the numbers of trapped songbirds illegally killed on a British military base in Cyprus last autumn reached an estimated 900,000 birds - the highest level recorded in 12 years.
This is equivalent to almost 15,000 songbirds a day during the September-October migration period.
Following this dramatic increase in bird deaths on the Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area, close to the tourist hotspot of Ayia Napa, the RSPB and BirdLife Cyprus are urging the authorities to continue the positive start made late last year to clamp down on the illegal trappers.
Extensive areas of illegally planted avenues of acacia scrub have been allowed to be grown by criminals on MoD land. The acacia scrub attracts vast numbers of migrating songbirds, moving between Europe and Africa each autumn, and trappers use it as cover for their illegal activities. Removing the planted scrub prevents this.
Small-scale trapping of songbirds for human consumption on Cyprus was practiced for many centuries, but it has been illegal on the island for 40 years.
Unfortunately, organised crime now seems to be driving this illegal activity which is thought to be worth millions of Euros every autumn from the songbirds which are sold to consume illegally in the Republic of Cyprus.
Dr Tim Stowe, RSPB’s International Director, says: “The report highlights the illegal trapping of songbirds on the British military base has escalated and we are urging the Ministry of Defence and the Base Area authorities to resolve it before this autumn’s migration.
"Such extensive illegal activity requires all the Cyprus authorities to work together to combat it, and the Base Areas’ contribution should be zero-tolerance towards illegal bird trapping.
“We were pleased that the Base Area authorities have started to remove acacia scrub last December. We believe the scale of illegal trapping requires continuing and sustained action, and we’ll continue to offer our support.”
Dr Clairie Papazoglou, Executive Director of BirdLife Cyprus, says: “Acacia isn’t a native plant in Cyprus, so the planting of extensive stands of this shrub by the trappers is a highly visible symbol of their flagrant disregard for anti-trapping laws.
"In fact, you can see these plantations from space. By removing the acacia, the Sovereign Base Area authorities would send a clear signal that they will not tolerate the slaughter of birds on British bases.”
The songbirds are trapped to provide the main ingredient for the local and expensive delicacy of ambelopoulia, where a plate of songbirds, such as blackcaps or robins, is served to restaurant diners. The illegality of the practice and the high profits are attracting the attention of organised crime gangs.
Today, most trappers will use long lines of nearly invisible netting, known as mist nets. They attract birds into them on an industrial-scale by playing birdsong to lure them in.
Traditionally, trappers had relied solely on lime-sticks, where stems of pomegranate are coated in a locally manufactured ‘lime’ and are then placed in trees and bushes.
Passing birds become stuck on the lime-coated sticks where they fall easy prey to trappers.
Whilst lime-sticks are still used in many areas, mist-netting between planted avenues of acacia has now taken the slaughter to a whole new level.
Since 2002, the monitoring program has recorded over 150 different bird species which have become trapped in nets or on lime-sticks.
Cyprus has two songbirds found nowhere else in the world: the Cyprus warbler and the Cyprus wheatear. Both of these songbirds are impacted by illegal trapping.