The district court of Larnaca, on the southern coast of Cyprus, has given a 10,000 euro fine to an 83-year-old woman, after more than 2,500 migratory birds were found in her house, meant for restaurants on the islands. In fact hunting these birds is forbidden. The news is reported today by the newspaper Cyprus Mail, which points out that it is the first strict penalty issued in Cyprus for poaching and the first for possession of this type of bird, considered a delicacy on the Mediterranean island where they are called ''ambelopoulia'' (vineyard birds).
The enormous amount of birds - which have an estimated value of 8,000 euros on the illegal market - was found in October in the house of the old woman in a village in the inlands. The law in Cyprus provides for a maximum sentence for poaching of three years in jail and or a fine of 17,000 euros.
Conservation group BirdLife Cyprus denounced recently that at least 400 thousand small migratory songbirds - mostly blackcaps, chaffinches and robins but also hoopoes and streaked fantail warblers - were killed illegally in Cyprus in the first two weeks of September. The birds were served as delicacy in the island's restaurants for prices up to 80 euros for a portion of 12. Their capture is forbidden by law, but poachers catch them anyway, using large mist nets that are stretched between trees or sticks, or sticks covered with a sticky substance and hidden in the shrubs. These cruel methods cause the birds to die slowly of hunger and thirst. The phenomenon has created an illegal market worth millions of euros per year, and could cause an ecological disaster that is so far ignored by Europe and the local government.