The British bases announced on Monday they would continue to clear an area rife with illegal bird trapping of the acacia bushes planted by trappers to attract the birds.
“This week the bases will chop down more acacia bushes at Cape Pyla ahead of the anticipated illegal bird trapping season,” said a news release from British Forces Cyprus.
“The acacia has been planted by bird trappers and encouraged to grow by illegally watering the areas. Recent aerial photography of the area has revealed that trappers have moved back into areas which have previously been cut back and replanted acacia and introduced new irrigation, this will now be removed.”
Two aerial photographs provided by the bases reveal how trappers cut corridors in the acacia bushes to set their mist nets which trap thousands of protected Black Caps and other migratory birds.
“As well as protecting birds this action will preserve the environment,” explained Dr Philip Rushbrook, the bases administration’s chief officer.
“Cape Pyla is one on the many Special Area of Conservation within the Bases; as such we have a legal requirement to remove acacia from these areas just as the Cyprus Forestry Department are doing at Cape Greco and the Oroklini Lake.”
The bases administration said that as recently as last week they made offers to local community leaders to agree a programme to remove the acacia. These included paying the local communities to undertake the work themselves but as those offers fell on deaf ears the bases took it upon themselves to remove the acacia.
More than 54 acres of acacia have been removed by the British since November 2014, with plans for the removal of the remaining 90 to follow over the next few years.
“Acacia is a weed, it cannot be eaten and no products are made from it, it is an invasive species which serves no purpose other than to help illegal bird trapping,” said bases spokesman Sean Tully.
According to the news release the acacia also poses a threat to bases personnel training on the Cape Pyla ranges with irrigation pipes presenting trip hazards and restricting fields of view which is a serious safety concern during live firing.
“Ridding the bases of bird trapping and protecting the environment remains a top priority for the administration,” said Tully. “Bird trapping is illegal in all of Cyprus, and the bases will not tolerate this criminal activity taking place here.”