Τhe Cyprus Hunters’ Party have called on the police to reinstate its anti-poaching unit saying its work was vital.
In a written statement on Friday, the party said the unit had provided an important service not only in catching poaching but in stopping non-hunting criminal activity in areas such as the buffer zone.
It also accused police itself of hindering the work of the unit by giving them other duties even while it was still active.
The five-member anti-poaching unit of the Emergency Response Unit (Mmad) was dismantled late last year.
According to the party, the unit was the only government body which, in cooperation with the UN, could carry out raids in the buffer zone, chase offenders, inspect parts of the buffer zone and fine poachers.
“This was also a deterrent for many other illegalities being carried out in the buffer zone such as drug deals, smuggling, transfers of stolen dogs, sheep and goats, illegal entry into the Republic and many other things,” the party said.
To prove their point, they listed some of the cases the unit covered in 2018 and 2019.
Apart from poachers, in 2018 officers arrested a Turkish Cypriot man carrying a loaded gun believed to be involved in illegal activities.
Of the 48 cases the unit reported in 2018, one concerned the discovery of 18 hares in the possession of a poacher in Larnaca, hunting in forbidden areas and illegal possession of weapons.
Last year, despite being given other duties at times, the unit reported 37 cases, 19 of which concerned poaching and the rest other offenses.
Some of these concerned a vehicle in the buffer zone transferring irregular migrants from the north, four persons entering illegally the government-controlled areas and cigarette smuggling.
The party said that the unit was prevented from carrying out its anti-poaching duties for 48 days last year because they had to man other operations, supervise football matches and protect politicians and officials visiting Cyprus, while for another 20 days some of its members were asked to attend other events.
As a result, “poachers were operating the days they knew the decimated unit was not working.”
But despite the obstacles, the unit was able to restrict poaching activity.
“Instead of reinforcing the unit’s efforts to avert many and serious illegalities, not only in hunting but also of social nature, its operations were terminated,” the party said.
It called on all “law abiding and honest citizens” to strongly protest over the dismantling of the unit.
It also called on the government and the police to reconsider this decision.