A number of different organisations combating illegal bird trapping got together this week at the Akrotiri Environmental and Education Centre for a workshop organised by BirdLife Cyprus to try and find a common way forward.
Attending the workshop were representatives from the Sovereign Base Areas, including the SBA Police, Cyprus Police, Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in the UK and the British Trust of Ornithology.
“It is a well-known fact that bird crime, in particular the use of illegal mistnets to capture migrating birds, is a huge problem in Cyprus and the workshop gave those attempting to tackle the problem the opportunity to get together and discuss how best to measure the amount of illegal activity taking place island-wide,” said a statement from the British bases.
However, it is in finding the best method to measure that activity where the various organisations can differ in opinion, it added.
But according to the SBA Administration’s Chief Officer, Dr Phillip Rushbrook, the BirdLife Cyprus-led workshop was the ideal opportunity for all the different organisations to get together to find a better way of recording that data.
He said: “We (the SBAA) must continue to work closely with BirdLife Cyprus, CABS and all of the other organisations to find a way to categorise what an active mistnetting site is and all of the other variables in between and I hope that can be achieved with workshops like this one.
“We want to find a common way forward so that we can all work together throughout the trapping season and beyond.”
This was echoed by Natalie Stylianou, media officer for BirdLife who said it had been a good opportunity for everybody to get their concerns on the table. “We may not always agree but it was very useful to hear everybody’s thoughts so we can move forward and continue working together,” she said.
And according to bases Chief Superintendent Jim Guy, the desire to combat the problem was what tied all of the organisations together.
“Last year the SBA Police recorded the highest number of arrests that we have ever made and that is due to the enormous amount of working hours we have dedicated to the problem,” he said. “We all have a common goal in tackling this problem and we must continue to work together in that vein.”
The bases are currently engaged in the large-scale removal of acacia trees, which poachers use to hide their mist nets and lime sticks.
“The removal of acacia will not only significantly hamper the ability of trappers to target migrating birds but it will also free up space which is required by military personnel who use Pyla ranges for crucial training activity,” the statement said.