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Cyprus

BirdLife Cyprus sees worrying increase in bird trapping

File photo: birds trapped in a mist net

Fieldwork by BirdLife Cyprus shows worrying signs of a big increase in trapping levels, the NGO has said as it called on the state to restore higher fines.

“Our latest report from fieldwork shows clear evidence of worrying increase in bird trapping levels in 2021,” it said.

“We call on the state to annul the recent law relaxation and restore higher fines, reinstate the Anti-Poaching Unit and follow the example of the SBA Police to establish closer cooperation with environmental organisations,” it added.

BirdLife Cyprus has been systematically monitoring bird trapping levels for the last 20 years in trapping areas located in the Republic and the Dhekelia SBA.

Fieldwork analysis for autumn 2021 showed worrying signs of a big increase in trapping levels with mist nets within the survey areas compared to 2020. These recorded trapping levels amount to just over 600,000 birds that might have been illegally trapped and killed in autumn of 2021 within the survey areas, the NGO said in a press release.

This troubling increasing trend in trapping activity comes after a series of retrograde steps on a policy level that have sent a general message of decriminalisation of bird trapping, it added.

The most recent was a damaging law amendment, which resulted in severely decreased fines for trapping with limesticks or shooting up to 50 birds from a list of 14 different species that fall under the ‘ambelopoulia’ category.

“The fines, now reduced from €2000 to €200, are non-deterrent and non-punitive, and clearly not proportionate to the profit one would make by illegally selling these birds. Moreover, with many songbird species looking alike, implementation and enforcement in the field has become more challenging and practically unfeasible, with many species being ‘lumped’ under the €200 category,” it said.

BirdLife Cyprus stressed that there should be no difference in fines based on killing method or on how “valued” some birds are by poachers and trappers.

The European Commission, in a letter to the Cyprus government last October, similarly expressed their serious concern and called upon the Cyprus government to annul this law amendment and restore the fines so that they start at €2000.

One month later, a BirdLife Cyprus petition calling for the reversal of this terrible law amendment, signed by almost 14,000 citizens, was handed to the President of the House of Representatives, Annita Demetriou.

“The ball is now in the court of the Cyprus Government. BirdLife Cyprus stresses that the state’s objective should be the protection and conservation of our natural heritage, starting from reinstating a strict and deterrent law,” it said.

BirdLife Cyprus is calling on the government to annul the law relaxation and increase the fines to €2000 for all birds, regardless of killing method or bird species.

Failing this, Cyprus is very likely to be taken to the EU Court of Justice for the insufficient protection of migratory birds, as highlighted in the Commission’s letter of last October.

It also wants to see the Cyprus Police Anti-Poaching unit reinstated in order to more effectively deal with large-scale organised trappers as well as violence/threats from trappers.

And it urged the government to follow the example of the SBA Police and establish better and closer, results-oriented cooperation with environmental organisations.

More information on BirdLife Cyprus’ monitoring programme and the 2021 trapping report can be found  here.

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