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Bird poaching in South an “ecological disaster”

20 December 2013

UK sovereign bases in South Cyprus have become hotspots for illegal bird-trapping, reports BBC news.

The RSPB and BirdLife Cyprus began monitoring the illegal trapping of songbirds in 2002 are will publish their findings in early 2014.

An estimated 1.5 million birds will have been killed according to the report and British SBAs in Cyprus, at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, sites covering about 100 square miles of British sovereign territory and within which the UK maintains a permanent military presence are the largest areas where trapping takes place. However, illegal trapping of birds is widespread.

It is estimated that illegal trapping has increased by over 50%. The numbers of poachers have increased since the banking crisis earlier this year. Desperate for cash, more people have turned to this lucrative business, since a dozen birds can be sold for as much as 80 euros.

Although the sale of pickled songbird – ambelopoulia by restaurants is also illegal, it has been reported that restaurants in the South openly sell this dish without incurring any penalties.

BirdLife Cyprus stresses that non-selective trapping on this scale – where hundreds of thousands of bird species that are not good for pickling also get caught in the nets – is “ecologically disastrous” and needs to be addressed urgently.

Martin Hellicar from BirdLife Cyprus explained that in Dhekelia – in the south-east of the island – organised criminal gangs created labyrinths of acacia trees, irrigating the plantations and cutting corridors through them in order to set up long mist nets.

The birds are then lured by broadcasting bird calls which draw the migrating birds into the virtually invisible nets.These operations often also use loudspeakers with recordings of bird calls in order to lure migrating birds into the almost invisible nets.

Trapping mainly occurs in Autumn, since Cyprus is a main stopping point on the migration route of many birds, including blackcaps and warblers.

BirdLife Cyprus said it was calling on the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to do more to tackle illegal bird trapping on its land.

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