By Karin Kloosterman
[It is\ illegal to serve this disgusting delicacy in restaurants, but despite being outlawed some 1.5 million songbirds will have been killed in Cyprus this year to make a dish called ambelopoulia. The statistics in come [sic\ BirdLife Cyprus’ surveillance programme.
Martin Hellicar from BirdLife Cyprus told the BBC that in Dhekelia, organised criminal gangs created “labyrinths” of acacia trees, irrigating the plantations and cutting corridors through them in order to set up long mist nets.
These operations often also use loudspeakers with recordings of bird calls in order to lure migrating birds into the almost invisible nets. BirdLife Cyprus says that massive profits are being made by often organised and ruthless trappers thanks to the largely uncontrolled sale of expensive ambelopoulia in law-breaking restaurants.
“A dozen birds can fetch up to 80 euros,” a spokesperson from BirdLife Cyprus told the BBC.
BirdLife Cyprus and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have been monitoring songbirds – or as they are locally know as “ambelopoulia” – trapping operations on the island since 2002.
BirdLife Cyprus told the Cyprus Mail, in that time, the scale of bird-trapping had increased by 54 percent over the last decade. Although it is widespread, the organisation said that some of the largest trapping operations were within the UK’s Sovereign Base Areas (SBA).
These take place on the two British SBAs in Cyprus, at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, sites covering about 100 square miles that are British sovereign territory.
Because Cyprus is a key stopover on the migration route of many birds, including blackcaps and warblers, the trapping mainly takes place during the autumn. BirdLife’s estimate that 1.5 million birds will have been killed will be published in early 2014, as part of a report on bird-trapping in the country.
In 2011 they estimated a million were killed, so numbers appear to be rising.
Migrating birds will have no chance if this barbaric practice continues unabated.