Thanks to its systematic monitoring programme, BirdLife Cyprus has been keeping a close eye to the bird trapping problem for almost two decades. The analysis of the field data for autumn 2018 has shown a 90% decrease in trapping levels with mist nets within the survey area (compared to 2002). This positive all-time low is mainly due to the progress achieved within the Dhekelia SBA over the last two years, one of the main trapping hotspots of the island in past years. While the big picture is one of welcome success and relief for Europe’s migrant birds, the increase in killing with mist nets in the Republic recorded in autumn 2018 (with limestick use also remaining a widespread problem) warns us to keep our feet on the ground. An estimated 335,000 birds were still trapped across Cyprus last autumn.
BirdLife Cyprus believes that the positive results of autumn 2018 are primarily due the SBAs’ multi-pronged approach to addressing the problem within their jurisdiction. By increasing police patrols, introducing deterrent sentencing for trappers, enabling covert surveillance work and continuing operations targeting trapping habitat (acacia plantations), the SBA Police in particular has been playing a key role in the dramatic reduction of trapping levels over the last 2 years. The anti-trapping effort in the SBAs has grown into a true –and truly effective– collaboration between the authorities and the NGOs, namely BirdLife Cyprus, their UK partner - the RSPB and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).
While BirdLife Cyprus acknowledges the efforts by the competent authorities in the Republic, including the issuing of high, deterrent on-the-spot fines, this year’s increase in trapping levels in the Republic not only strikes a cautionary note as regards to the dynamic nature of the trapping culture in Cyprus, but also reminds us that the trapping problem is not yet solved. BirdLife Cyprus urges the competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus to step up their game and adopt a similar approach to the SBA Police, to contribute to the progress and maintain the low trapping levels across the entire island. BirdLife Cyprus remains committed to continuing its efforts to put an end to the mass slaughter of our birds, focusing on changing hearts and minds through outreach and education actions.
Martin Hellicar, Director of BirdLife Cyprus, said: “The last few years have brought a significant reduction in bird trapping levels in general, and in the British bases in particular. This is thanks to far more effective enforcement by the SBA Police, plus the building of a partnership with conservation NGOs that amounts to a real showcase of how such working together can bring tangible results on the ground. The sour note is this year’s increase in trapping levels within the Republic. We are pushing for the adoption of a much stronger collaborative approach with NGOs, to avoid a reversal of the progress achieved in previous years.”
Bird trapping with mist nets and limesticks is a damaging and non-selective practice that affects over 150 species of birds, mostly migratory. The main killing season is autumn, when the law-breaking trappers are after Blackcaps Sylvia atricapilla to be sold as illegal but highly lucrative ambelopoulia ‘delicacies’. Lack of enforcement against the illegal sale of trapped birds in restaurants and against big, organised trappers remain persistent problems, centred in the Republic.