Following widespread outrage in March when a report was released in the UK saying that a record 900,000 songbirds had been killed by poachers in the British base area of Dhekelia last autumn, the SBA said on Thursday they were designating three new Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) to protect the natural habitats of Bases wildlife.
The bases said the proposals were now subject to short public consultation period ending on July 3. The proposed special areas of conservation have been chosen to reflect similar areas designated by the Republic of Cyprus.
David Reynolds, the head of Bases environmental team said: “This is part of a wider EU initiative that will contribute significantly towards meeting standards set by the EU Habitats Directive’
SACs are strictly protected by law which safeguards important, high-quality conservation sites that contribute to conserving internationally important habitats and species considered to be most in need of conservation within Europe.
The three proposed areas are, Akrotiri-Episkopi in the Western SBAs, which cover approximately 140 square kilometres and Agios Nikolaos and Dhekelia-Cavo Pyla in the Eastern SBAs, which cover four and 24 square kilometres respectively and have been subject to the completion of expert scientific studies. It is proposed that these will be designated as SACs after the conclusion of the consultation period on July 3.
Reynolds added: “This is an important step forward towards ensuring the protection of the magnificent biodiversity of flora and fauna that thrives within the Bases.”
The designation of the new SACs within the Bases will support the existing network of designated sites within the Republic of Cyprus and across Europe and environmental staff have engaged with the local communities.
The Bases have already designated similar Special Protection Areas for birds at Akrotiri and Episkopi in 2010, which protect areas important for birds, they said.
More than 900 different plants have been recorded in the Bases which represent almost half the total number of plant species recorded in Cyprus. Many important animals make their homes or breed within the Bases, they include nesting turtles, breeding monk seals and several bat species.
The Bases are also attractive for birds with more than 300 bird species recorded to date and the cliff faces in Episkopi are home to the only nesting pairs of Griffin Vulture found on the island.
At the time the bird slaughter report released in the UK by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in cooperation with BirdLife Cyprus, the bases said they did not have enough resources to do as much as they would like and did plan to work towards creating a Specialised Area of Conservation.