BirdLife Cyprus, together with the UK BirdLife Partner, RSPB, have been systematically monitoring illegal songbird trapping in the Republic of Cyprus and the Eastern Sovereign Base Areas for the last 20 years. This active covert surveillance has been used to inform on-the-ground action by enforcement officials, resulting in one of the most successful campaigns against illegal poaching globally. Since surveys began in 2002, mist-netting activity within the survey area has decreased by 84%. However, the battle is not yet won. A recent relaxation of deterrent legislation, together with reduced capacity in enforcement teams, resulted in worrying signs of an increase in trapping activity in autumn 2021.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of songbirds are illegally trapped and killed as they pass through Cyprus on migration. Species such as Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla and European Robin Erithacus rubecula are caught using mist nets or limesticks, to be sold on the black market for the banned local dish of ‘ambelopoulia’. Trapping with non-selective methods and the trade of wild birds has been illegal in Cyprus since 1974, but illegal trapping is widespread, incentivised by the high price of ambelopoulia.
Since 2002, BirdLife Cyprus, together with the UK BirdLife Partner, RSPB, have been systematically monitoring illegal bird trapping in the Republic of Cyprus and the Eastern Sovereign Base Areas (ESBA; a British Overseas Territory), providing a long-term record of trapping activity. Observers visit a random selection of sample sites within areas where extensive trapping is known to occur, recording any trapping equipment they find and reporting it to the relevant enforcement authorities. This active covert surveillance and collaboration with enforcement officials has successfully reduced mist-netting activity within the survey area by 84% since 2002, making it one of the most successful campaigns against illegal poaching globally (BirdLife Cyprus 2021).
However, the battle is not yet won. A recent relaxation of deterrent legislation, including a reduction in on-the-spot fines for illegal killing, together with reduced capacity in enforcement teams, resulted in worrying signs of an increase in trapping activity in autumn 2021. Autumn mist netting activity was 132% higher in 2021 than 2020 in the Republic of Cyprus, and 46% higher in the ESBA, while trapping with limesticks also increased (BirdLife Cyprus 2021). Further work is needed to reverse the relaxations to the law, strengthen enforcement and provide training to judicial authorities to ensure that perpetrators are given appropriate court sentences.
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BirdLife Cyprus (2021) Update on illegal bird trapping activity in Cyprus. Available at https://birdlifecyprus.org/combating-bird-crime/surveillance-programme/
Compiled: 2022 Last updated: 2022
BirdLife International (2022) Increased surveillance and enforcement measures in Cyprus have significantly reduced illegal bird killing. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 30/09/2023