As a conservation NGO, we are always alert and we keep a watchful eye on any proposed relaxations of the national laws. We are always pushing for the correct implementation of the national, European and International laws to safeguard the protection of our wild birds. Our advocacy and lobbying efforts are a key element to our campaign against illegal bird trapping, with our focus being on urging decision makers and key stakeholders both within the Republic of Cyprus and the SBA Administration to adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach on wildlife crime, including illegal bird trapping, and to implement correctly the national legislation.
It is important to highlight that trapping with non-selective methods (both mist nets and limesticks) and the trade of wild birds have been prohibited since 1974, when the Cyprus law ‘Protection and Development of Game and Wild Birds Law of 1974 (39/1974)’ was introduced. Moreover, in 1988, Cyprus ratified the 1979 Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats with national law 24/1988, adopting a long list of birds as protected, including the species Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla), hence prohibiting the killing (hunting) and consumption of Blackcaps (which are the main target species of illegal bird trapping in autumn in Cyprus). With Cyprus joining the EU in 2004, EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC, formerly 79/409/EEC) was transposed into Cyprus Law N. 152(I)/2003, prohibiting anew the use of non-selective methods including mist nets, limesticks and calling devices, as well as the possession of trapping equipment, trapped birds and the trading and eating of trapped birds. Therefore, national laws prohibiting bird trapping with non-selective methods and the trade of protected species existed much before Cyprus joined the EU, discarding claims from pro-trapping supporters that the EU had imposed such prohibitions upon Cyprus.
The key problem prior to joining the EU was that the relevant laws 39/1974 and 24/1988 were not enforced at all by the competent authorities. Upon joining the EU, enforcement on this issue had taken place resulting in a reduction in trapping levels up until 2007, since the EU had asked the Cyprus government to address this issue effectively. However, since then and until 2016, we witnessed trapping activity levels increase dramatically, which we attribute to the lack of a ‘zero tolerance’ approach as well as the reduced enforcement action on the ground. In fact, on many occasions, politicians have publicly admitted to eating blackcaps (which is an illegal act of course), a clear indication of the political tolerance they exhibit towards this wildlife bird crime.
Moreover, pro-trapping politicians are always trying to introduce loopholes to the relevant Cyprus Law N. 152(I)/2003 in an effort to relax the prohibitions against illegal bird trapping. BirdLife Cyprus always follows and attends to such discussions at the Cyprus Parliament, preparing position papers and expressing its opposition to any relaxations, has meetings with politicians, informs and mobilizes the general public (demonstrations, e-petitions, press releases) and many more.