‘Birdman’ Klitos Papastylianou, a Cypriot environmental activist, was among 28 personalities from the EU chosen by media outlet Politico as people who would most likely shape the world in 2018.
Papastylianou, 35, fights against bird trapping, a multi-million-euro business on the island, which also involves the underworld and politicians readily supporting trappers lest they lose votes.
He was included in Politico’s list of “28 people who are shaping, shaking and stirring Europe.”
“You’re always messing around with political and economic interests,” Papastylianou was quoted as saying by Politico. “This is the challenge.”
An estimated 1.5m to 2m birds are killed in Cyprus every year during the migratory season in Spring and autumn.
Caught on limesticks or mist nets, the birds, locally known as ambelopoulia, end up served as delicacies. Others are killed and thrown away as collateral damage.
Ambelopoulia is a business worth some €16m million per year according to the Game Fund.
Activists say the most common species in the traps are Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warblers, Nightingales, and Reed Warblers, all long distant-migrants with populations declining in most EU countries.
Other species of international conservation concern found in the traps are Great Reed Warbler, Nightjar, Golden Oriole, Wryneck, several species of shrikes, flycatchers and the local subspecies of the Scops Owl for which Cyprus has a special responsibility.
“Mafia is deeply involved in this wildlife crime, and of course it’s a serious constraint [in the fight against bird trapping],” Papastylianou said.
Activists are frequently attacked by the trappers and authorities have been accused many times of turning a blind eye.
According to Politico, Papastylianou, is gearing up for a campaign aimed at protecting two nature reserves from development.
“We have to challenge political and economic powers in order to foster social and ecological change.”