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Bird trapping falls to near all-time low

A bird caught in an illegal mist net

Bird trapping levels dropped to an almost all-time low in autumn 2017, BirdLife Cyprus announced on Tuesday.

Data from the organisation’s systematic awareness programme for last autumn show a reduction of 79 per cent in mist netting levels, compared to 2002. Last year’s level was 21 out of an index of 100, the second-lowest since measurements began.

“’At long last – but will it last?’ If contained enthusiasm was ever put into words, this is what it would probably sound like here at BirdLife Cyprus. We say ‘enthusiasm’ because after years and years of hard work campaigning, lobbying, surveying, educating, we saw bird trapping levels drop to an almost all-time low this past autumn. But we also say ‘contained’ because the beast is nowhere near knocked-out yet,” the NGO commented.

Despite this success, BirdLife Cyprus said, it must be noted that the competent authorities still confiscated 230 mist nets and almost 1,600 limesticks during the autumn 2017 trapping season. An estimated 460,000 birds were killed, compared with the year before, when 2,300,000 were trapped and died.

“460,000 is still a very high number, and so in no way has the trapping problem been solved,” they warned.

In their report the NGO acknowledges the commitment of the competent authorities who appear to have bolstered their efforts to reduce illegal trapping.

For example, there has been an increase in law enforcement in restaurants. While in the three years before just three restaurants were prosecuted for serving the wild birds, one in each year, last year this number increased to seven.

However, the conservationists caution that “as long as people continue to eat ambelopoulia, illegal bird trapping will continue to be a problem, facilitated by restaurants that continue to serve this illegal dish.”

They believe the situation will worsen following the approval of the amendment in June 2017 by the House of Representatives to permit hunters to bring precooked game to be eaten in restaurants.

Another key issue is the removal of acacia, a non-native invasive species planted by bird trappers to attract migrating birds, particularly in the Dhekelia area of the British bases. The bases’ acacia removal programme has been on hold since October 2016 due to protests from locals in the area.

This past year, the British bases have targeted their resources to removing illegal irrigation piping that is used to water the acacias, but BirdLife Cyprus believes it is vial that the acacia are removed to ensure a permanent stop to the killing of birds in Cape Pyla.

“We may have won the battle this year, but we have not won the war, and we hope to see continuing and permanent reductions in the years to follow,” the announcement concluded.

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