A recent study by Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), has said bird trappers in Cyprus killed 2.3 million birds in autumn 2016, up from 1.4 million in 2010.
That makes the island the second most lethal destination for birds in the Mediterranean, after Malta.
In the ongoing fight to foil trappers, Dhekelia British Bases police, on Thursday, launched a drone to monitor any illegal activities on its land.
The most prolific amount of bird trapping takes place within British military controlled areas, in particular, the eastern sovereign base of Dhekelia.
The drone, with its high quality imagery, which can be relayed from a great height, at a top speed of over 50mph, will be used mostly to combat illegal bird trapping. It also has night vision, can cover a distance of seven kilometres and will strengthen the police’s ability to monitor areas which have, in the past, been difficult to access.
Dhekelia garrison Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Jon Ward said bases police “are absolutely committed to targeting anybody involved in illegal bird trapping and we will use all legal methods in order to do this”.
Additionally, a series of hidden static cameras placed across all of the UK bases territory will by used by the bases’ police, a successful strategy that has led to a number of prosecutions of bird trappers.
The Chief Superintendent said, “We have seen some significant sentences handed-down by the courts recently and the use of these techniques…and it will be intelligence-led to target criminals”.
“My message to anyone thinking of engaging in illegal activity but more specifically in bird trapping is to be aware that we will be out both day and night to catch you,” he added.
Bird trapping is a highly lucrative business which is worth an estimated 15 million euros. The trappers can snare thousands of birds in a season. Restaurants will pay as much as 40 euros for a dozen and then charge double that to make a tidy profit.
Around 200 out of 280 species of birds regularly spotted on the island, are migrants ranging from songbirds to waterfowl and raptors.
Millions of birds stop-off in Cyprus on their spring migration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe. In autumn they return, fattened and accompanied by their offspring. The fate of many of them is to end up in the trappers’ snares.
In March, the RSPB described the Dhekelia base area as the “worst bird killing hotspot” in Cyprus.
There is around 99 square kilometres of British sovereign territory in Cyprus.