By Bejay Browne
TWO eagles that have been nursed back to health were released on Tuesday morning in Paphos by members of the Game and Wildlife department to mark World Wildlife Day.
According to Nick Kasinis, a senior Game and Wildlife Officer, the Bonelli’s eagle is a species under threat in Cyprus. The eagles, a mature female and an immature male aged around one and a half years old, were found in separate locations close to Stroumpi village in Paphos. For the last five months they have received care from staff members at the Game and Wildlife department’s rehabilitation centre in Nicosia.
Kasinis said: “Members of the public – responsible hunters – reported the separate cases to us. The eagles’ wings had been shot from a distance.”
The Bonalli eagles were released in an area between the villages of Stroumpi and Giolou and could live up to 30 years in the wild.
Kasinis noted that World Wildlife Day was an opportunity to appreciate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora in Cyprus, but also to raise awareness for their protection. It also highlights the destruction and degradation of habitats
According to the Game and Wildlife department, land use in Cyprus has changed dramatically in the last 30 years and to a large extent has negatively impacted local wildlife.
Major construction and development, a declining interest in traditional agriculture, the creation of an extensive road network, along with high voltage transmission cables being erected in areas of importance for birds and those on migratory routes, have resulted in the fragmentation and destruction of wildlife habitats. The department said the effects of these changes are immediate and often irreversible.
A number of Cyprus birds are already under threat, such as, the Griffon Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle, Audouin’s Gull and the Raven. The Black Bellied Sandgrouse, which was common in Cyprus 60 years ago, is now considered extinct. Other birds whose numbers are declining due to land use changes are the Lapwing, the Roller and the Crested Lark.
Another major threat is illegal trapping of wild birds using limesticks and mist nets. Such practices are prohibited in European Member States. In 2003, the Cyprus government passed the Wildlife Protection and Management Law which also banned these practices. The law also prohibits hunting or trapping of song birds or Ambelopoulia, which are a protected species.
Both methods are still used in Cyprus and can involve the indiscriminate killing of thousands of birds of many species, including endangered ones. These birds are often sold to restaurants who charge big bucks for the illegal delicacy.
The Game and Wildlife department said however, that they are making significant efforts to prosecute hundreds of cases of poaching and illegal trapping through the courts. These include instances of poaching the protected Cyprus Moufflon.
In such cases technological advances help the department to perform specific tests to determine if the animals are victims of poachers. This has helped to bring those responsible to justice, they said.
Kasinis noted that although there are still cases of bird poaching and cruelty, the sheer magnitude of the problem in Cyprus has been decreasing over the last 30 or so years.
“Although the Bonelli’s eagle is a declining and threatened species, it is doing better now in Cyprus than it was in the 1980s and 1990s.This is due to general poisoning being scaled down and, although the two being released had their wings shot, generally cases of shooting are not happening as often.”
By Bejay Browne