In the Republic of Cyprus, the use of limesticks is widespread and there is limited enforcement action against restaurants illegally offering ambelopoulia, while in the SBAs there is extensive mist netting activity and widespread use of calling devices to draw in birds to their death.
Despite the progress made in relation to the bird trapping levels that existed before the Cyprus accession to the EU, current trapping levels are still very high and unacceptable and in the last decade, since 2007, trapping activity has increased dramatically.
There has been an increasingly major effort to tackle and to address the problem. Within this context the 1st European Conference against Illegal Bird Killing was organised in Larnaca (July 2011) by the Council of Europe (Bern Convention) and the Republic of Cyprus (Ministry of the Interior - Game and Fauna Service). During this conference the ‘Larnaca Declaration’ was unanimously adopted, which highlighted amongst others a ‘zero tolerance’ on illegal bird trapping.
It is clear that a strategic approach is needed to tackle this complex problem at its root, with the active involvement of all stakeholders.
In 2013, two workshops were organised by BirdLife Cyprus with funding from the MAVA Foundation (one on 24 - 25 April and one on 18 November) for the development of a Strategic Action Plan (StAP)
for tackling illegal bird trapping in Cyprus until 2020.
The participants at the two workshops identified the seven strategic focus areas of the Strategic Action Plan and identified targets and actions for each one of them. The seven strategic focus areas are enforcement, courts, policy / legislation, awareness raising, habitat management, economic aspects and monitoring and coordination.
The Cyprus Government finally adopted the plan in May 2015, but added unilaterally a new clause called ‘alternative plan’ which would give the possibility to issue derogations to shoot Blackcaps, as a way of controlling illegal bird killing. BirdLife Cyprus reacted strongly against this since its announcement. Fortunately the European Commission has clearly stated to the authorities that this derogation cannot be allowed under the Birds Directive and has called upon the Cyprus government to remove this ‘alternative plan’; however the Cyprus Government has not done so yet.
For the Strategic Action Plan against the illegal trapping of birds, as it was developed through the participatory workshops in 2013 and which was adopted by most stakeholders in April 2014, please click here.
No other Mediterranean country has developed a national Strategic Action Plan to tackle illegal bird killing and in this sense the example of Cyprus is pioneering. BirdLife will continue to lobby for the implementation of the StAP, and in particular the Cyprus Government and the Game and Fauna Service to remove the ‘alternative plan’ from the StAP, as has been requested from the European Commission as well.
In addition to the above, the Game and Fauna Service has proposed a catastrophic hunting law amendment. The proposed law amendment essentially introduces a series of relaxations and loopholes in the existing legislative framework without achieving any updating and modernisation of the main law. These proposals would be disastrous for the sustainable management of game and the conservation of wild birds, and completely ineffective with regards to better combating of poaching and illegal bird trapping in Cyprus, if passed by the Cyprus Parliament. BirdLife Cyprus believes that the majority of the proposals included in the law amendment are in breach of the Birds Directive and/or are relaxations to the existing legislation and therefore has been lobbying against this law amendment together with other environmental organisations.
In late 2014, the SBA Administration began with the removal of acacia patches in the mist netting hotspot of Cape Pyla. Trappers have been planting and watering acacias (Acacia saligna) in this area for a number of years, for the sole purpose of bird trapping with mist nets. Acacia is an invasive alien plant species in Cyprus. It displaces native species, thus destroying the natural habitat of the area in which it grows. This means that the acacia takes over the native vegetation, making it a significant threat to the island’s nature and wildlife. The native habitat in Cape Pyla is floristically very rich, with rich flower diversity and low phrygana vegetation and very few trees and never constituted a forest ecosystem. As a consequence the presence of acacias in this area negatively affects, beyond the plant species, also the fauna species that depend on this type of vegetation. From December 2014 until December 2016 a total of 61 acres of acacia had been cleared.