|A female blackcap caught in a net|
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has recently reported that nearly one million birds were illegally killed by poachers in just two months on a British military base in Cyprus last year. The organization's international leader, Dr. Tim Stowe, urged the Ministry of Defense (MoD) to do more to take down poachers who reportedly killed 15,000 birds everyday during September and October from the British Dhekelia Sovereign Base Area. However, the MoD denied the RSPB's discoveries and doubted its survey methods. An MoD spokeswoman asserted that the ministry is committed to fight poaching adding that they detained almost fifty poachers and confiscated 450 nets and 286 pieces of poaching equipment during the previous migration period. According to Jonathan Hill, overseas territories team leader for the RSPB, the ministry had signed off on the 12-year-old survey's methods and that, if anything, the figures were traditional. BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packham, who has reported largely from Cyprus and lobbied against the bird hunt, stated that he believed the figures were gathered by the RSPB in partnership with BirdLife Cyprus arguing that the two organizations could and would not be guilty of misjudgment. The RSPB suspect that organized criminal syndicates are now involved in the sale of bird meat as a black market delicacy. Their auditors have pointed out that extensive planting of acacia scrub attracts birds and creates passages for poachers to hang their nets. Dr. Stowe indicated that the military had made decent introductory steps to remove acacia scrub.
|A male Cyprus warbler, one of several rare species of birds at risk of being captured for food.|
The poaching of songbirds on Cyprus has been an extremely controversial issue for decades. This illegal method of catching and killing birds has been practiced for centuries in the autumn months of September and October when the birds arrive on this island nation to rest and feed as they migrate to Africa from Europe. Once caught and killed, the birds are used as main ingredients of a local dish known as ambelopoulia. Traditionally, Cypriot people would trap birds by using branches coated with a sticky lime that birds would land on and be unable to escape. But with the development of nets, the trapping techniques became extensive and chaotic as thousands of birds, including threatened species, began falling victims to human consumption and led to the ban in both the practice and the dish in 1974. However, despite the ban, there is still an ongoing illicit demand which is driving the number of birds killed to unparalleled levels and ambelopoulia continues to be served in Cyprus' local tavernas. Majority of the birds caught by poachers are common species such as blackcaps and European robins whose populations are not severely affected by trapping. However, the practice has a severe effect on rare species like the Cyprus warbler and the Cyprus wheatear. It is extremely crucial that the government of Cyprus should take serious action in ending this ongoing catastrophe affecting songbirds. This not only includes targeting poachers, but also identifying and shutting down tavernas suspected of serving ambelopoulia and target organized criminal syndicates that are becoming involved in the illicit sale of Cyprus' bird meat. Several migratory birds, mostly passerines, come to Cyprus for rest and feeding before reaching Africa and fall prey to poachers. This doesn't just disrupt their migration, but it also affects birdwatching for both residents and tourists on the island. Therefore, it is extremely crucial to combat illegal poaching of birds on Cyprus before it is too late.
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