A total of €1.3 million in fines have been handed out to poachers over the last two and a half years under stricter legislation implemented in July 2017.
Since July 2017, out of the total 418 fines given, 344 (82.3 per cent) were issued by the Game and Flora Fund, while the remaining 74 (17.7 per cent) were given by the now disbanded anti-poaching unit.
Out of the total arrests, 54 are considered serious offences, as they relate to night-time poaching, hunting in forbidden areas and hunting using illegal traps, especially used for hares.
In such cases, fines can end up being very harsh. For example, on December 17, a 24-year-old was fined €26,000 for illegal night hunting. The man was spotted by the Game fund officials driving his car on a rural road in Kokkinotrimithia. While checking his car, they found a dead hare, which they took as evidence and handed the man over to the local police station.
Police then fined the man for killing wildlife in an area where hunting is prohibited. On top of that, they also imposed an additional €1,000 fine for hunting without a licence.
According to data recently submitted to the parliament by the Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides, only ten cases regarding illegal hunting were reported to the Game Fund up to November 2019, when the anti-poaching unit was shut down, a substantial decrease compared to the 39 cases reported in 2018.
The anti-poaching unit was permanently dismantled, “due to shortage of cases”, Savvides said, a decision that drew widespread criticism.
The Cyprus Hunters’ Party called on the police to reinstate the unit saying its work was vital.
In a written statement published on January 10, the party said the unit had provided an important service not only in catching poachers but in stopping non-hunting criminal activity in areas such as the buffer zone.
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.