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Cypriot and bases authorities slammed by anti-poaching NGOs

Some 430 wild birds from 25 different species were found trapped or killed, and more than 1,800 limesticks, were seized during the Spring Bird Protection Camp (BPC) that took place between March and May in Cyprus, it was announced on Thursday.

According to a report by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and of the Pro Biodiversity Foundation (SPA – Stiftung Pro Artenvielfalt) which organised a Spring Bird Protection Camp(BPC) in Cyprus, despite the big impact of spring trapping, the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus and British bases “are not taking this issue seriously and are not implementing the Laws for the Protection of Wild Birds”.

During the camp, that took place between March 25 and May 7, around a dozen activists from six countries monitored bird trapping activity in the south-eastern part of the island; in the Famagusta and Larnaca districts. This was their 10th camp in Cyprus.
CABS and SPA organise Bird Protection Camps in Cyprus three times per year; in spring, autumn and winter to prevent illegal, non-selective and large-scale trapping, killing and trade of migratory birds passing through Cyprus.

In total, activists removed 1,834 limesticks, 19 mist nets and 10 electronic bird callers, and found trapped or killed 430 wild protected birds belonging to 25 different species, the majority of which were Lesser whitethroats and Blackcaps. Other species found were Common Nightingales, Willow Warblers, and Wrynecks.

It added that during the camp, 282 known trapping sites were investigated and 62 were found to be active. “The percentage of active trapping sites is the second lowest ever recorded and 6.1 percent lower as in previous spring”. The majority of all detected active sites – 56 – were found in the Famagusta district. The number of seized limesticks, it said, is similar as the previous spring while the number of seized nets was lower than in spring 2016.

The activists cooperated with Cypriot and bases (SBA) police, the Anti-Poaching Squad (APS) and game wardens . Cooperation with law enforcement units this spring however, they said, “was the worst in the last years”.

“We reported 32 active trapping sites to them and they investigated 14 of them. Enforcement officers have caught and prosecuted trappers only at six sites reported by our teams. The percentage of investigated trapping sites is the lowest ever recorded at Spring BPCs and the number of prosecutions lowest since 2012,” it said.

With less joint operations carried out together with enforcement officers as in previous years and with less hours of cooperation per day, they said, “we had the chance to report only 32 out of the 62 detected active trapping sites”.

Without their interventions, activists said, all enforcement agencies in the Republic of Cyprus would have achieved only one prosecution on their own. Especially disappointing, they said, was the cooperation with game wardens as they investigated only one out of eight reported cases and with APS officers, who investigated only five of the 15 reported sites. “Worrying is also the overall low number of prosecutions made for reported cases. All together only six prosecutions for bird trapping were made during the Spring Camp, this is much less than previous spring, when 13 prosecutions were made”.

The group said that this was not the first season to observe lack of response from game wardens for reported trapping cases.

According to the report, Cyprus lies on one of the key migratory routes that birds use during their journey between Europe and Africa, with around 100 million birds visiting the island every spring and autumn. The island, it said, is also an important wintering place for birds which migrate to Cyprus to avoid harsh winter conditions in Europe. Cyprus however, the report said, is one of the main hotspots of illegal bird killing in the Mediterranean. It is estimated that more than 2 million migrating birds get caught and killed in illegal traps every year in Cyprus, while trapping has affected a total of 153 recorded wild bird species, of which 78 are threatened and listed on Annex 1 of the EU Birds Directive.

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