By Andria Kades
THE lowest-ever percentage of active bird trapping sites during spring season was recorded this April, according to a report released by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the Foundation Pro Diversity (SPA) during their latest Bird Protection Camp (BPC) in Cyprus.
The camp started on April 5 and ended on May 10.
During the period, 249 trapping sites were checked, of which 51 (20.3 per cent) were found active with set traps for illegal bird trapping.
“The percentage of active trapping sites is the lowest ever detected during spring season,” the report said.
“This is in line with the decreasing trend observed in the last spring seasons, since the start of the BPCs, and markedly since the cooperation between CABS / SPA and the Cyprus police strengthened,” it added.
Some 17 poachers were caught and prosecuted for illegal trapping while a total of 1,200 limesticks and 25 mist nets were seized – also the lowest ever recorded.
“Despite the low amount of seized traps, the number of prosecutions made by the competent anti-poaching agencies is record high” the report said.
It said that cooperation with both the Cyprus Police and the British ESBA Police was adequate and the overall scenario was positive.
“Even if spring trapping is less professional and more amateur-like, and therefore easier to tackle, the methodology implemented on the field by environmental organisations and the competent law enforcement agencies clearly works,” said the report.
“Trappers feel the pressure of the competent law enforcement agencies in the field and minimise or abort their illegal activity. By only doubling the patrols in the field during the main trapping seasons in autumn (Blackcaps) and winter (Song thrushes), the same methodology would bring exceptional results in clamping down bird trapping in Cyprus,” it added.
Despite the good news the two organisations slammed the government for trying to reverse improving trends with its ‘strategic plan’ announced in May to combat bird trapping that involves allowing ‘selective hunting’
The plan includes legalisation of selective hunting of blackcaps – ambelopoulia – with air guns, flobert rifles and slingshots.
CABS and SPA said they had spent two years formulating their own “Strategic Plan for Tackling Illegal Trapping of Wild Birds in Cyprus” that was essentially sidelined when the interior ministry submitted its own plan to the council of ministers.
“This decision by the Cypriot government is undoubtedly a major step backwards, which demonstrates that the competent authorities – particularly the ministry of interior and the game and fauna service – are still refusing to adopt and implement a ‘zero tolerance’ policy against illegal trapping, killing and trade of protected wild birds in Cyprus,” the organisations said.
CABS and SPA are now urging authorities in Cyprus to increase fines, have two independent patrols meaning 14 – 16 experienced officers at minimum, create public awareness campaigns, environment education projects to change attitudes over the consumption of blackcaps and publish their results.
They also called on the British sovereign base areas authorities to have at least four independent patrols responsible for disrupting illegal bird trapping and prosecuting songbird poachers particularly during autumn and winter seasons, organise joint patrols and anti-trapping operations in grey zones and conduct clearance operations in Cape Pyla and Ayios Nikolaos every two weeks between late August and late October.