The united hunters association said on Monday they had sent a letter to the interior ministry complaining about the increasing number of environmental activists disrupting their activities over the past few weeks.
The association’s spokesman Aristos Aristidou said the incidents had taken place mainly in the districts of Larnaca and Famagusta.
“What these activists are doing is nothing short of harassment,” he said in the letter.
“They come with flashlights and make loud noises to scare the animals away and disrupt our legal activity. We find it frankly offensive that the government continues to tolerate such behaviour from a foreign organisation.”
The organisation Aristidou might have referred to, without specifically mentioning its name, is the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), an NGO established in 1975 in Germany to advocate against the illegal poaching of migratory birds in Europe and particularly active in Cyprus.
“Sometimes the tension between the hunters and the activists reaches very high levels and results in scuffles between the parts,” the letter continued.
“What we are doing is completely legal. However, any illegal activity falls under the responsibility of the authorities, so activists are not even supposed to get involved at all,” he said.
Aristidou claimed there are over 42,000 legally licensed hunters in Cyprus, who contribute to as much as €15m to the island’s economy every year.
“That is why we are calling for the government to protect us from the attempts to stop us carried out by people who don’t even pay taxes here.”
CABS, however, denied the allegations made by Aristidou, pointing the finger to both the hunters and the relevant authorities.
“What we are trying to do as an organisation is simply making sure that all European laws concerning legal hunting are respected in full,” Andrea Rutigliano, a representative of CABS in Cyprus told Cyprus Mail.
“However, we have sadly noticed that no one in the island cares about such laws.”
Rutigliano said the illegal hunting trend in Cyprus is so widespread that even authorities do not fight it anymore.
“Game wardens, who are supposed to patrol protected areas, often turn a blind eye to poaching, therefore effectively covering for everything hunters do.”
Rutigliano added that every year thousands of migratory birds, including the rare songbirds, are illegally killed in Cyprus during the hunting period spanning from the end of August to the beginning of October.
A common practice among poachers involves placing almost invisible mist nets and limesticks to catch such birds.
“Despite what hunters say, we estimated that around 95 per cent of all hunting activities in the districts of Famagusta and Larnaca throughout the hunting season are illegal,” claimed Rutigliano.
“This is absolutely unacceptable and has to be stopped as soon as possible.”