The Game and Fauna service is taking a number of measures to keep the island’s 3,000 mouflons within the Paphos forest area as their population has not only risen the last years but they also face a number of threats, an official said on Tuesday.
On Monday the farmers’ association announced that residents of the Kambos and Tsakkistra villages, near Kykkos monastery, would sue the government unless it takes effective measures to stop mouflons destroying agricultural produce in the mountain areas where they live.
The endemic Cyprus mouflon, or agrino as it is called locally, is a protected species and hunting of them is strictly prohibited. They are mainly found in the Paphos forest.
Farmers also said that according to recent data, the population of mouflons has increased significantly in recent years and “has become a scourge for the area’s residents”.
But for the Game and Fauna service, which is responsible for the management of the species, this announcement came as a surprise as according to Nicos Kasinis, an official dealing with mouflon issues, whenever an individual’s crop is damaged by mouflons, the service will visit the affected and their farm and offer advice as to how to keep the animals away.
“People express satisfaction by the measures we propose; fencing, lighting, even leaving the radio playing for a few hours, as they are afraid and stay away,” Kasinis told the Cyprus Mail.
He added that in the past the department has also suggested spraying the leaves of trees with a substance which gave an unpleasant taste and kept the mouflons from munching on them, but that it is not available in the local market anymore.
Up to 2006, he said, farmers whose crop was damaged by mouflons were compensated by the government but that is not an option anymore following EU instructions.
He added that as of this year, the agriculture ministry has launched a new scheme where farmers living in areas where mouflons live are given an amount of money if they leave 10 per cent of their crops or fruit unharvested so that mouflons and other animals can eat them.
“It is a form of indirect compensation for any damage mouflons may cause to their property,” Kasinis said.
He added that the Game and Fauna service has placed a large number of drinking troughs in the areas where mouflon populations are found, and that they are also sowing seeds for grain crops to grow in cleared forest areas for mouflon to eat, “as part of our effort to keep them as much as possible within the forest area”.
The number of mouflon, some 3,000 has not risen the last years, Kasinis said, but that in those areas (Kambos-Tsakkistra), the north-eastern part of the Paphos forest, there is denser mouflon population.
Poachers aside, mouflons face a number of other serious threats, he said.
“A serious problem is the packs of feral dogs living in the forest that kill several mouflons, and foxes, who threaten young mouflons,” Kasinis said.
He added that several mouflons have also been found dead after being hit by cars.
Another problem, Kasinis said, is the diseases mouflons in the northern parts of the forest catch mainly from co-grazing with goats and sheep that cross to the government controlled areas from the north through the buffer zone.