The possibility of re-establishing the anti-poaching unit was discussed by the House environment committee after it was dismantled in 2019 with some MPs saying incidences had increased since it was abolished.
The committee’s chair, MP and activist Alexandra Attalides of the Green Party, expressed her party’s disappointment at the dismantling of the unit, saying that since then, poaching had substantially increased.
“We have recently witnessed episodes where poachers boast and brag about their actions in front of police officers while making clear to them that they are not afraid of being brought to justice,” Attalides said.
She added that the EU commissioner for the environment has raised the issue regarding the surge illegal poaching with Cyprus’ interior ministry.
“After the anti-poaching unit was dismantled, many poachers were released from prison or got their sentences cleared.
“Many of them are also well connected to the underworld and are known to intimidate even police officers,” said Attalides, who ended her intervention by calling for the immediate reinstatement of the unit.
“The repeated actions of Cyprus’ poachers are reaching the headlines of the international press, we need to react.”
Akel MP and deputy chairman of the Committee Nikos Kettiros also said that the dismantling of the unit in 2019 resulted in an increase in the number of poaching incidents in Cyprus.
“Poaching is currently the kindergarten, primary and secondary school of criminals. This is where drugs, weapons and protection coexist,” he said, questioning the reasons behind the police not intervening when incidents happen and the government not re-establishing the unit.
He called on the police chief “to reconsider the issue and set up the anti-poaching squad if he wants to beat organised crime.”
Responding to Attalides and Kettiros, Disy MP Prodromos Alambritis said that, despite the dismantling of the anti-poaching unit, fewer complaints have been filed since 2019 and more anti-poaching checks are being carried out by police officers in areas known to be fertile ground for poachers.
“The cooperation between the police and the Game and Fauna service is strong,” Alambritis said, adding that, should the need for the reinstatement of the anti-poaching unit arise, it will certainly be carried forward by the chief of police.
Finally, Elam MP Linos Papayiannis said that the anti-poaching unit should only be brought back “on the condition that it will only deal with poaching cases and nothing else.”