The British Bases said on Thursday they had started work removing more Acacia from the live firing range at Cape Pyla.
The Acacia, which has grown up over several years is being removed for two reasons. To allow the ranges to be used safely, and to prevent illegal bird trapping, a statement said.
It added that much of the acacia had been planted by bird trappers who had also laid irrigation pipes on the surface of the ground. The acacia restricts the field of view and the pipes are a trip hazard. This is particularly dangerous for solders training with live weapons, it said.
Bases spokesman Sean Tully said: “This is the second phase of our programme of acacia removal which started in November last year. Last time we removed about 11 football pitches worth, this time it will be a slightly larger area.”
The removal of the acacia will include a programme to treat the area to prevent it from growing back again.
Tully added: “Bird trapping is illegal in all of Cyprus and the Bases will not tolerate this criminal activity taking place. By removing a significant area of acacia we know is popular with bird trappers we will deny them the opportunity to carry out this activity and at the same time, provide a safer area for our troops to train on.”
The Pyla range is small and is the only area where realistic live firing can take place, the bases said, adding that it was vital that as much of the limited training area as possible can be used.
“This year we will continue working with Birdlife Cyprus, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the local community to tackle illegal bird hunting on the Bases. This is the first of several initiatives which will include increased patrols in bird trapping hotspots,” Tully said.
Dr Clairie Papazoglou, the Executive Director of Birdlife Cyprus welcomed the move “and any activity that will reduce the ability people to illegally trap birds”.’
Tully said the bases had already spoken with representatives of the local community on this issue and informed the Cyprus government.’
Removing acacia is consistent with activity undertaken by the Cyprus Governments Environmental Department of Forest and Game and Fauna Service, who have recently removed acacia from areas such as the Oroklini lake project. The removal at Cape Pyla will be a considerably smaller project, the bases said.
Last month the bases announced a number of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) in the Sovereign Base Areas which included Cape Pyla.
Ultimately, once the designation is confirmed, the Bases will seek to manage the acacia from the area as it is an invasive species, it said. Removal of invasive species is consistent with SAC management.
The bases came under heavy criticism earlier this year for not doing enough to combat bird trapping. Reports said that a record 900,000 songbirds had been killed by poachers in the British base area of Dhekelia last autumn.