What we have
achieved in 2022
2022 was another busy year of fighting for nature for BirdLife Cyprus.
Below are some of the highlights among our achievements for the year, from protecting key sites to spreading our nature-friendly message far and wide, thanks to our members and supporters, our collaborators, our volunteers, the wider BirdLife family and our team who tirelessly work to turn our vision into reality.
We fought hard and stood strong for Akamas and Akrotiri
2022 saw the finalization of long-running environmental assessments of the redrafting of planning zones for the Akamas and Akrotiri Peninsulas, both precious wildlife areas. We have followed these processes closely for the past few years, reading numerous lengthy studies, providing detailed comments and suggestions, taking part in multiple committee meetings, communicating milestones with the public, and raising the alarm when it was called for, all of which intensified this past year. Thankfully, the assessments issued by the Environment Department prevent the worst, provided that the Planning Council implements all the conditions set by the Environment Department to the letter in its final decisions. If there is one conclusion that can be clearly drawn from both processes, for Akamas and for Akrotiri, it is that valuable time and money would have been saved had the initial proposals been drafted with nature and the countryside as the guiding principle and not the ‘obstacle’.
We completed 20 years of monitoring bird trapping
Back in 2002, we joined forces with the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK) and developed a systematic programme to monitor trapping levels on the island, which we have been running consistently since then, year in, year out. This active surveillance has been used to inform on-the-ground action by enforcement officials, resulting in one of the most successful campaigns against illegal poaching globally. And after so many years of lobbying politicians and authorities to take greater action to put an end to this bird slaughter, we can finally see some improvement with trapping levels decreased significantly in recent years. However, the battle is not yet won. We will continue and intensify our efforts until we are certain that have achieved a long-term behavioral change, a shift in public perception whereby ambelopoulia consumption has finally become socially unacceptable.
We successfully advocated for nature-friendly renewable energy projects
After years of lobbying decision-makers to adopt a spatial planning policy for renewable energy projects that take into consideration protected areas and high nature value farmland, we are happy to see that the cycle of uncontrolled planning has finally been broken. Thanks to the legally binding opinion of the Environment Department which was issued this year, big solar and wind parks are now clearly banned from Natura 2000 sites, state forests and main bird migration corridors with the necessary buffers left, which are more generous in the case of windfarms. Projects at a close distance to Natura 2000 sites will have to undergo an appropriate assessment to evaluate their impact. A big win for nature! We will be keeping a close eye on the proper implementation of this new policy and keep advocating that, for photovoltaics especially, priority is given to government building rooftops, industrial areas, abandoned landfills and other such sites.
We contributed in the fight against poison bait use
In 2022 important steps were made towards a future where the countryside of Cyprus is safer from poison baits. BirdLife Cyprus contributed to the deployment of two specially-trained dogs, capable of sniffing out poison baits and poisoned animals. The two Anti-poison Dog Units are operating under the Game and Fauna Service and are an asset to the fight against the illegal use of poisons. The Anti-poison Dog Units started patrolling the countryside in May 2022 and have since responded to 42 incidents in which over 10kg of poisoned meat bait were collected. Moreover, BirdLife Cyprus in collaboration with the LIFE with Vultures project partners organised trainings on wildlife crime detection, reinforced collaborations between key stakeholders such as the Cyprus Police and the State General Laboratory and played an important coordination role in the efforts for better-enforcement of the law to mitigate the harm of poison baits. As part of these anti-poison efforts, a protocol is current being formulated to assist the officialization of procedures undertaken by the Game and Fauna Services, the Cyprus Police, the State General Laboratory, the Veterinary Services and any other parties working on wildlife crime cases linked to the use of illegal poison substances.
We connected with 2000 children through our school programmes
In 2022 we managed to reach 2000 children, from kindergarteners to high schoolers, through our school programmes. Our aim has always been to cultivate appreciation and respect for the birds of Cyprus, to develop positive attitudes about protecting birds and their habitats and to connect children with the natural world around them. Year on year, our school activities keep expanding and include, among others, birdwatching field trips, scavenger hunts in nature, hands-on workshops such as nest-box making, the study of Barn Owl pellets, educational activities about the endangered Griffon Vulture as well as citizen science activities. The enthusiasm, energy and optimism that children carry is a much-needed fuel for us, which keeps us going to keep spreading the message on the importance of protecting birds and nature in Cyprus.
We became owners of our first nature reserve
In early September this year, we became οne of the few conservation organisations to own land in Cyprus, having purchased two of the three plots of land that make up Safe Haven, our nature reserve in Frenaros. The next step in the process is to transform this area to become more hospitable to both nature and people. We plan on using the Safe Haven not only as a reserve for wild birds and other wildlife, but also as a place for research, through bird ringing, and especially for awareness-raising and education. The aim is for Safe Haven to become an outdoor education centre, where we will host school groups, not only from the communities in the surrounding area, but from the entire island. There will be activities for them to undertake on site combined with a well-planned out environmental education programme teaching the children about nature, bird migration, and much more. Already, through the ringing sessions that we have been conducting on site, we have managed to record 18 different species of bird using the area, from Olivaceous Warblers and Robins to Turtle Doves and Wrynecks, with the most numerous being the Blackcap.
We look forward to many more successes in 2023 and we commit ourselves to another hard-working year for birds and nature in Cyprus and beyond. We hope you will join us on this journey. Here are some of the ways you can support our work.