Illegal bird trapping has increased by 54% since 2002 with the majority of poaching taking place on Sovereign Base Areas (SBA), a conservation group warned yesterday.
Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, BirdLife Cyprus spokesperson Tassos Shialis said the preliminary findings from the 2014 annual bird trapping report paint a very disturbing picture.
“This year’s data which we are comparing to 2002 when we launched our monitoring programme reveals that bird trapping activity has increased dramatically.”
According to Shialis, the findings show that so far in 2013 some 1.5 million birds have been illegally trapped and killed on the island.
“Islandwide bird trapping has increased by 54% since 2002 and bird trapping on SBA’s has increased by 180%.”
He added that while trapping activity has skyrocketed political will to combat poaching has fallen to its lowest levels in over a decade.
“This year there has been hardly any criminal action taken against the restaurants that serve illegally trapped birds and we have witnessed politicians’ openly state on television that they eat ampelopoulia.”
The non-selective nature of trapping makes use of mistnets, lime sticks and calling devices to lure birds in while a plate of a dozen ampelopoulia can fetch up to €100 on the black market.
SBA Dhekelia police chief Andreas Pitsillides explained that even though raids are carried out frequently the criminal gangs that catch birds are becoming increasingly organised and manage to evade the authorities.
“They have become professionals and recruit spotters that see our police cars and alert the others so they leave the area. It is becoming very difficult to arrest them.”
The 2014 BirdLife report will include survey data from the last decade which is used to measure the scale of the trapping and estimate how many birds have been caught in Cyprus on limesticks and mistnets.