Conservationists have expressed concern over reports of corruption in the police anti-poaching unit, which they say was a deterrent in previous years whose force has been recently diminished.
In a joint letter to the chief of police in which they requested a meeting, BirdLife Cyprus and Terra Cypria said the island was going through the ‘autumn trapping period’ and the unit in question appeared to be understaffed.
There were also reports suggesting officers of the unit had links with major poachers, something that prompted the attorney-general to order an investigation.
“As we had said in previous letters to the justice minister … in recent months the anti-poaching unit’s activity against illegal trapping was down compared with previous years,” the letter said.
This was cause for concern, the conservationists added, since through its action, the unit had evolved into an effective deterrent force.
“As you know, the phenomenon of illegal trapping and trafficking birds and poaching, is on the rise in recent years and organised crime is also involved. For this reason, we consider the unit’s role as decisive in stamping out this phenomenon.”
Bird trapping is big business in Cyprus with millions of birds falling victim to nets and limesticks used by poachers to catch them.
Bird Life Cyprus said 1.7 million birds were illegally killed across the Republic of Cyprus in 2016, more than 800,000 of them on British military territory that covers around 100 sq km.