Cyprus is facing international embarrassment after a rare bird, last spotted on the island in 1979, was shot and killed by poachers, a conservation group has said.
Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, BirdLife Cyprus spokesperson Tassos Shialis said the local bird watching community is still in shock over the illegal shooting of a Little Bustard (Tetrax tetrax) within the UN controlled buffer zone near Yeri in Nicosia.
“The Little Bustard is not yet on the critically endangered list but it has a threatened status and is extremely rare in Cyprus. This is a terrible embarrassment for Cyprus and a detrimental blow to bird conservation.”
According to Shialis, the Little Bustard which was spotted in early December was found dead in a no-hunting zone on Sunday with tests revealing that it was illegally shot. The previous recorded sighting of the bird in Cyprus took place 34 years ago.
“We believe it ended up here after losing its orientation or being blown off course. This particular species is more commonly spotted in Israel or Turkey,” Shialis explained.
After the recent spotting, news spread quickly within the bird watching community and dozens of people flocked to the area to catch a glimpse of the rare species which they hoped would winter in Cyprus.
Birdwatchers were left shattered when instead of spotting the Little Bustard in nature they stumbled across its lifeless body.
“This illegal shooting once again highlights the serious problem of poaching on the island of non-game species especially in areas where hunting is forbidden.”
The conservationist added that Birdlife is now calling upon the competent authorities to take greater action against poaching, particularly within the buffer zone which has become a trapping hotspot.
BirdLife data released earlier in the week revealed that illegal bird trapping in Cyprus has increased by 54% since 2002 while some 1.5 million birds were killed on the island in 2013 with mist nets and lime sticks.