Eight men were handed fines of up to 2500 Euros and four months suspended sentence, after being convicted of illegal bird trapping within the British Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs). These sentences are among the highest handed down by a local court for illegal trapping, a serious wildlife crime, and BirdLife Cyprus welcomes the deterrent nature of the court sentences.
In autumn 2016, the SBA Police worked with specialist Investigations staff from the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) to install cameras at several known bird trapping sites in the SBAs. This was the first time this surveillance method, developed by the RSPB in the UK, was used by the SBA Police to catch illegal bird trappers. The eight men in three different cases, sentenced on 12 and 16 June 2017, can be seen in the footage obtained trapping birds with mist nets, removing the birds from the mist nets, killing them with knives and tossing them into bags.
Regarding the cases dealt with on 12 June, three men were each fined a substantial 2500 Euros, well above the average fine handed out for these offences. In the second case two men were fined 1540 Euros each, while a third man from the same case was fined 820 Euros. Regarding the third case dealt with on 16 June, the two men were fined 1200 Euros each and also received a four month sentence suspended for three years (meaning that if they are caught again in the next three years, they will be imprisoned for four months). Deterrent penalties are necessary in order to achieve a reduction in the shockingly high levels of illegal bird trapping in Cyprus, as well as the continuation of acacia clearance, an invasive alien species, used to create bird trapping sites.
Illegal bird trapping with mist nets and limesticks remains a serious problem in Cyprus. The methods used are non-selective and large-scale and have a serious ecological impact. BirdLife Cyprus estimates that 2.3 million birds were killed in Cyprus during autumn 2016. 155 different bird species are known to be affected by illegal bird trapping, 82 of which are species of conservation priority.
While in the SBAs deterrent fines are handed out to law-breaking trappers, in the Republic of Cyprus a catastrophic hunting law amendment, proposed by the Game and Fauna Service and amended by the Parliamentary Environment Committee was recently approved. BirdLife Cyprus and other environmental NGOs have strongly opposed this law amendment and have called the Members of Parliament to vote against it.
The campaign against illegal bird killing is one of the key, long-term activities of BirdLife Cyprus, as it constitutes a serious and persistent problem in Cyprus. The actions undertaken by BirdLife Cyprus to tackle this problem can be separated in three main categories: systematic monitoring, lobbying and awareness-raising. BirdLife Cyprus will continue to push hard for effective action against law breaking restaurants serving ambelopoulia in the Republic of Cyprus as well as with its educational actions, with the aim to raise awareness and as a result to reduce the demand that is the economic driver for organised trappers.