Bird trapping with limesticks is on the rise this spring, after years of steady decline of the illegal activity during the season, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) reported on Tuesday, blaming the increase on the dismantling of the police anti-poaching unit.

More than 90 per cent of the known trapping sites are active according to checks by CABS volunteers in recent days.

“This amounts to hundreds of limesticks on trees and thousands of feathers on the ground. It is like nobody is disturbing the trappers, when CABS is not searching for them,” CABS Chief Operations Officer Alexander Heyd said Tuesday.

The decision to dismantle the five-member anti-poaching unit of the Emergency Response Unit (Mmad) late in 2019, is “now bearing its consequences”, Heyd added.

The anti-poaching unit was the only police unit in Cyprus that was preventing poaching of wild birds, with legal hunters calling for it to be reinstated early last year, saying the officers “provided an important service not only in catching poaching but in stopping non-hunting criminal activity in areas such as the buffer zone”.

Increased fines for poachers are not effective to prevent bird-trapping, the committee added.

CABS said they reported seven active trapping sites in a single day. Four suspects were subsequently caught and issued fines of €8,200 by the Game and Fauna Service.

But trappers are ready to pay “for their bloody hobby”, CABS argued, and suggested fines should be imposed more frequently.

Two bird trappers were also caught with tape lure, 72 limesticks and protected birds in Ayia Napa on Monday.

According to CABS, the same people were found poaching in the same spot in September last year.

The reports come following reduced bird trapping activities in recent spring seasons, according to CABS, since studies have shown that fewer migratory songbirds tend to migrate in spring and those that do migrate faster and “carry less fat so are less attractive for the restaurants”.

“If the Cypriot government is not willing or able to tackle the problem, we will exhaust all legal possibilities to ensure that the Republic of Cyprus is in compliance with the European Birds Directive,” the NGO concluded.