The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said on Monday they had launched an international protest to convince the new British government under Prime Minister Theresa May, to take a stand against widespread illegal poaching on the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA) in Cyprus.
“This primarily requires a massive reinforcement of the authorities responsible for combating environmental crime – the military police – and adopting a zero tolerance policy towards convicted offenders,” the organisation said.
CABS has in numerous reports called the Dhekelia region a stronghold of illegal bird trapping.
A study published by CABS in June said each spring and autumn local trappers set up at least 800 illegal nets in Dhekelia with a total length of almost 10 kilometres. “We estimate that each year around 1.5 million songbirds perish in the illegal trapping grounds in Dhekelia,” said committee chairman Heinz Schwarze.
Victims include Blackcap, Golden Oriole, Nightingale, Cuckoo, Warblers and numerous other endangered species caught whilst migrating through Cyprus.
“The illegal sale of the birds caught in the SBA to fuel the restaurant trade is a very lucrative business,” it added.
According to the interior ministry, each year illegal bird trapping generates millions of euros for the black market.
“Despite a total trapping ban the risk of poachers being caught in the ESBA is practically nil,” CABS said.
“The inaction and tolerance of the military has turned Dhekelia into a paradise for bird poachers. Large parts of the trapping areas are now believed to be firmly in the hands of criminal gangs who do not shy away from violence against conservationists”.
Bases spokesman Sean Tully hit back at the claims on Monday. “Preventing bird trapping is one of our top priorities,” he told the Cyprus Mail. Tully said the bases has a special anti-poaching unit that CABS and other conservationists had agreed to work with to eradicate trapping. “For them to say we are turning a blind eye is surprising,” Tully said.
He said the bases were pursuing a number of measures, the main one at the moment being to destroy bird-trapping equipment laid down by poachers before the season reaches its peak in October-November.
They recently destroyed 54 acres of acacia trees, a non-indigenous, fast-growing plant that hides nets, limesticks and other bird-trapping paraphernalia. The tree is planted illegally by hunters who install covert irrigation systems to help it grow quickly.
“This Autumn we have seized 330 items of equipment associated with trapping such and mist nets, loudspeakers and CDs,” said Tully, pointing out that this all took place within the space of a month.
SBA authorities also destroyed 140 concrete bases set by trappers in the same period and have this year arrested six suspected poachers “and the season is not upon us yet”, said Tully. “We are committed to eradication and have taken proactive action.” Tully said the plan also includes removing all of the acacia growing within the jurisdiction.
CABS meanwhile says that to put pressure on the British government, conservationists and bird lovers in the EU should add their voice directly to the UK prime minister and use an e-card petition on the CABS website: http://www.komitee.de/en/protest/protest-campaign-sba-cyprus