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Cypriot bird trappers flock to British military base

Last modified: 24 December 2010

Illegally trapped robin on limestick, Cyprus

A Cypriot trapper's view of a Christmas robin

Image: Guy Shorrock

As many songbirds, including robins, in Britain and northern Europe struggle with the icy blast of Arctic weather, many of their counterparts which have migrated to Cyprus to escape the harsh conditions are being killed by the island’s trappers in greater numbers than any year in the previous decade.

Shockingly, a report by BirdLife Cyprus reveals a large proportion of these birds are trapped at Dhekelia – a UK Sovereign Base Area in the south-east of the island.

Figures released by BirdLife Cyprus, the RSPB’s BirdLife International partner on the island, reveal that an estimated 1.4million songbirds have been trapped illegally this autumn to provide the main ingredient for a local delicacy: ambelopoulia. BirdLife Cyprus has described this level of slaughter as an ‘ecological disaster’.

Bird trapping is an illegal indiscriminate practice that threatens many birds of conservation concern

BirdLife Cyprus’s Martin Hellicar says the island has now lost significant ground in the battle against bird trapping. He added: “The picture emerging from this autumn is one of a bird-trapping disaster unseen since we began monitoring almost 10 years ago.”


He added: “Bird trapping is an illegal indiscriminate practice that threatens many birds of conservation concern, especially migratory ones.”

Tim Stowe is the RSPB’s International Director.  Commenting on the rapidly worsening situation, he said: “The millions of Britons feeding songbirds in their gardens to help them survive this harsh spell will rightly be horrified at the level of slaughter that is happening in an area of Cyprus under direct British control.

“The fact that more than five times the level of netting activity were recorded on the UK’s Sovereign Base Area compared with the Cypriot Republic is a major embarrassment for the Ministry of Defence and the UK Government.

Annual carnage

“We know that some efforts have been made to clear trapping equipment from the Base Area, but this serious organised criminal activity and annual carnage will only be ended by increasing the level of arrests and convictions.”

Although trapping levels are thought to be lower than those experienced in the 1990s, the situation must be addressed urgently. Trappers are reportedly making hundreds of thousands of Euros by selling songbirds to restaurants to be served up as expensive delicacies.

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