Officials from the Sovereign Base Area (SBA) police’s specialist anti-bird trapping unit said on Tuesday that more resources have been dedicated to combating the issue than ever before.

Members of the Community Action Team (CAT) revealed that during the poaching season affecting songbirds and thrushes, police officials boosted their numbers, using up to ten military personnel on daily operations.

According to the SBA police, the use of military personnel between August and March resulted in up to 16 officers, including police specialists, working in the Dhekelia region every day to combat the illegal activity.

The enhanced team also carried out seven operations with BirdLife Cyprus and 32 alongside the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS).

During a recent task force meeting, Chief Inspector Pertev Karagozlou confirmed that the crime has been reduced by 94 per cent since the establishment of an action plan in 2016.

“Since we developed our anti-bird trapping action plan in 2016, we have worked tirelessly to overcome what has been a historical problem on the island,” he said.

“Having reviewed our statistics for the past season, bird trapping has still been reduced by close to 100 per cent when compared to pre-2016 levels.”

Acknowledging a slight statistical increase in bird trapping over the past year, Karagozlou attributed it to the larger team on the ground, covering a wider area and detecting trappers who may have previously gone undetected.

During the 2023-2024 season, the SBA Police made 14 arrests, including ten for illegal bird trapping and four for the attempted transportation of songbirds from the north. A further ten cases remain under investigation.

In a warning to bird trappers, Karagozlou also confirmed the SBA police are pushing to increase fines for the illegal activity.

“I have heard talk of reducing the fines for bird trapping but I can categorically state that is not our intention,” he said.

“In fact, we will be looking at increasing the fines for those caught, as financial punishments act as a significant deterrent.”

Currently, a fixed penalty for the possession and use of a mist net is €2,000, with an additional €500 added for every extra net found. Possession of a live or dead bird is also punishable with a €2,000 fine, with a further €100 increase for each extra bird discovered. The use of lime sticks is fined for up to €2,000, with a further €10 added for each additional stick.

“Whilst it is clear the fines are already large, we are always looking to do more,” the chief inspector said. “Every case can also be forwarded to court, where, depending on its severity, the judge could sentence an individual with up to three years in prison.”

Over the next year, the police are also confident of securing extra funding to add new technology, including better surveillance equipment, with updated drones and cameras.