BirdLife Cyprus’ latest report, on autumn 2019 trapping levels, highlights further reduction in the Sovereign Base Areas, with zero trapping activity recorded for the first time at the Cape Pyla trapping black spot. In contrast, developments in the Republic continue to disappoint, as trapping levels have increased. Big trappers continue more-or-less undisturbed and the Cyprus Police Anti-Poaching Unit has been closed down. Up until a few years ago, the bird trapping situation was the complete opposite between the two jurisdictions. The SBA story highlights that the trapping problem can be solved, given the right approach and use of all available enforcement tools. However, the story in the Republic shows how easy it is to lose ground in the fight against this damaging practice.
BirdLife Cyprus has been keeping a close eye on illegal bird trapping for almost two decades, thanks to its systematic monitoring programme. Data analysis from the field survey carried out in autumn 2019 shows an 89% decrease in trapping levels with mist nets within the survey area (compared to baseline levels from 2002). This positive news is mainly due to the progress achieved within the Dhekelia SBA over the last three years, reversing the ‘trapping hotspot’ status the jurisdiction once had. Close collaboration between SBA Police and environmental NGOs, covert surveillance with help from the RSPB Investigations team as well as a series of deterrent measures against illegal bird trapping activity have resulted in tangible results within the SBAs. In fact, autumn 2019 was also the first survey season where zero activity was recorded at Cape Pyla, formerly a major trapping black spot within the Dhekelia SBA.
While trapping levels remain low overall, developments in the Republic last autumn were not encouraging. Trapping activity increased in autumn 2019 for a second consecutive year within the Republic areas, undermining the progress that had been achieved up until 2017. This is a worrying outcome that BirdLife Cyprus believes is associated with the reduced enforcement action - especially against large organized trapping sites - by the Cyprus Police Anti-Poaching Unit (APU). The engagement of the Cyprus Police APU against bird trapping had dropped significantly over the last two years, while the final ‘strike’ to this previously effective Anti-Poaching Unit came last November, when the Cyprus Police decided to close it down entirely, claiming “poor results”. BirdLife Cyprus strongly disagrees with the closure of the Cyprus Police Anti-Poaching Unit, especially as it played a key role in tackling large organized trappers, who now continue their operations largely undisturbed.