By Peter Stevenson
THE RED fox plays a useful role in agriculture by reducing the numbers of harmful rodents and locusts yet efforts are being made to allow the hunting of this Cypriot native, an animal welfare group has warned.
DISY MP and former head of the Cyprus Hunting Association Andreas Kyprianou, aided by the Game Fund, is trying to pass legislation which will allow fox hunting.
Kyprianou claimed in a letter to parliament last month that the rising number of foxes in recent years is directly linked to the diminishing number of hares. He has received the backing of the Game Fund even though a report last September by that government department clearly stated that the two events were not related.
“The hare population has decreased minimally in comparison to last year which is statistically negligible. The percentage fluctuates depending on the season and district,” the report said.
The general picture of hare population, according to the report is down to three factors. The first is down to a disease hares suffered last year between January and April which affected hares during their mating season. The second is a result of various illegal activities which include poaching and allowing hunting dogs to roam in areas where they are not allowed. The third is the large numbers of hunters which adds extra pressure on hare numbers even when hunted legally.
“The fox population has risen by 17 per cent in comparison to last year and is the largest fox population recorded which means the relevant authorities need to consider how to handle the animal,” the Game Fund report concluded.
Strongly opposed to the DISY proposal is the Initiative/Intervention for the Protection of the Cyprus Fox which has gathered almost 1,500 names on a petition to reject any legislation which would see fox hunting legalised.
“They claim foxes are impacting hunting species and that is the main reason they want to introduce this legislation. How about controlling the impact of hunting which is the main impact on the hunting species?” a representative from the initiative told the Sunday Mail.
The initiative feels that there are a number of misconceptions about foxes.
“People say that foxes have a negative impact on agriculture, but that’s not true. They often help agriculture as they are natural predators of rats and less so of rabbits or hares. There have been a number of studies that show that,” the representative said.
Despite these facts, and despite its own report – which did not mention that foxes posed a danger to other animals or the ecosystem – the head of the Game Fund Pantelis Hadjigerou said foxes were having a negative impact.
“Animal farmers and hunters put poison out to cull the number of foxes which have serious consequences as that poison can be ingested by hunting dogs and other animals,” he told a recent House environment committee meeting.
Because of its ability to adapt to any type of habitat, the Cyprus red fox is found throughout the island: highlands, lowlands and coastal areas, dense forests, areas with shrubbery, parks and even close to populated areas depending on the availability of food. Usually it lives in caves, dense shrubs or in holes.
It’s an endemic subspecies, and the only carnivorous mammal in Cyprus. Because it was considered harmful for livestock and the hunter’s prey, it has been hunted mercilessly in the past causing the population to decline significantly overall.
If you want to help the Initiative reach their goal of 1,500 signatures to prevent foxes from becoming permissible game you can visit the page: www.change.org/petitions/we-demand-the-protection-of-the-cyprus-fox