Police have already begun investigations into the slaughter of a family of foxes by hunters who bragged about it with photographs on social media at the weekend, the Animal Party said on Tuesday.
Party leader Kyriacos Kyriacou told the Cyprus Mail he had met with officers from the operations unit and demanded someone be arrested within the next 24 to 48 hours.
“We handed over all the evidence we gathered from social media along with a memo,” he said. “There needs to be an arrest. We can’t tolerate this situation anymore.” He added that the party would not drop the issue, “unlike others who merely sent letters to the police chief but went no further in pursuing it”. The Animal Party had gone in person to make sure something would be done. Kyriacou said police told him they began investigating on Monday.
The Game and Fauna Service said on Tuesday that following the social media uproar, it wanted to clarify that it had not given out any licences to cull the animals.
“Therefore the images that were made public were the result of a violation of the law,” it said. “The Game Fund categorically states that to date the only legal action that has taken place to control the damage caused by foxes were carried out by gamekeepers in very specific cases and within the framework of the provision of the legislation and the relevant decree,” it added.
The Cyprus Greens – Citizens Cooperation on Monday expressed anger over the slaughter. “It’s not the first time that we see such incidents,” a statement from the party said. “Unfortunately, this is a result of the parliament’s decision taken in 2014 to remove foxes from the list of protected species.”
The Greens said the decision was taken using the excuse that the fox population on the island had multiplied, without, it said, any scientific study being done to support the claim.
“As a result of this wrong political decision, the legislation from 2003 was revised in 2015 and allowed the Game Fund to intervene and carelessly reduce the population of foxes,” the party said.
Due to the revision, it said that in the last few months “some so-called hunters” killed foxes for trophies and had even uploaded footage of themselves torturing the animals on the Internet.
The party said that authorities had a responsibility to inform the public that fox hunting in Cyprus is only allowed with a special permit and under strict control from the authorities.
“We expect and we ask from the authorities to investigate this case. If the hunter didn’t have a permit, then we are looking at a poaching and illegal hunting case and the authorities must do their duty,” the party said.
It also said that as regards posting on social media, the party considered that it was time to change the legislation relating to cybercrime and make such posts a criminal offence. It has already submitted a legislative proposal to this effect.
Earlier this year the Animal Party condemned a move by the Game Fund to hand out extra licences to hunt foxes. Director of the Game Fund Pantelis Hadjigerou said at the time that no licences would be given to individuals without supervision. “The licences will be strictly regulated,” he said. “They will not just be given to just anyone.” According to Hadjigerou, a lot of studies preceded the decision. “We are only culling foxes in areas where they are abundant,” he added. “We are being very selective.”
But the Animal Party’s Kyriacou rubbished the ‘scientific studies’ by the Game Fund, which he said cites an increase in the fox population as the reason for a reduction in the number of hares and partridges. “I have lived in a village for 20 years and have only seen a fox once,” he said.
Kyriacou said foxes eat anything, including thousands of mice each year and could not be solely responsible for a reduction in hares and partridges so that they became a target for culling by the Game Fund. He said the animals were increasingly being driven out of their habitats by people and forest fires.