The big story of the fortnight in Cyprus isn’t about birds, but it crosses the path of birding (kinda). I’ll get to that below. But the biggest story that is about birds is the conference that took place last week.
From July 6-8, there was a European conference in Larnaca about illegal bird killing, organized by Terra Cypria. It seems that it came off rather well, and was co-organized by the Cyprus Game Fund and members of the Bern Convention.
BirdLife Cyprus noted that, “The three-day conference dealt with illegal bird killing across Europe, and emphasis was given to the problem of poisoning, which affects many bird species in many countries (including the Griffon Vulture in Cyprus). But the most talked about issue throughout was the ambelopoulia problem in Cyprus, with relevant presentations from the Game Fund, SBA Police, Terra Cypria and of course BirdLife Cyprus.”
Kingfisher on a limestick (Credit: Hüseyin Yorganc?)
That’s welcome news. Especially since the Ministry of the Interior and Justice Ministry officials were strongly supportive.
The concluding tone of the conference was also on a very positive note, with Cyprus pledging to adopt a “Zero-tolerance” policy against illegal trapping activities. The only thing for me is that I’ve grown a little cynical, or maybe it’s realistic, in thinking that politicians in situations like this say one thing and do another.
I was really quite encouraged though to hear that the attendees were really excited after the conference to get out there and work on these problems, in Cyprus and in their own countries. For instance I had the pleasure of taking out three birders-conservationists, two Slovak and one Hungarian, for a full day of birding on Saturday July 9th. They had been rather shocked to learn during the conference about bird trapping in Cyprus, but also they were excited to take back the lessons they learned during the conference and apply them to their work.
Which gets me to the real big news in Cyprus of the fortnight, indirectly anyway. You see we went right past the Cypriot military base where the explosion took place on early Monday morning. It took out the power plant which supplies 60% of the Republic’s power grid, killed 13 people, wounded some 60 more, and pretty much destroyed two villages. So it’s not a good week in Cyprus!
The explosion makes me a bit more cynical about the Cyprus authorities’ abilities to combat illegal bird trapping. That is, one of their chief concerns is funds and resources to adequately enforce the law, and the cost of rebuilding will only deepen the government debt and the recession woes. Even if the Ministries of the Interior and of Justice are sincere in their willpower to stamp out the ambelopoulia trade, it’s almost a given that they won’t be given the resources to do so.
The need for making the local children aware of the problem is crucial. Education, education, education is the way forward. They will be the future custodians of their environment, if they are made aware of this they will take this issue very seriously. With a bit of luck, put pressure on their peers to change the way they look at nature.
There needs to be a massive poster campain warning of the danger of trapping so many birds. And of course to police this problem, there needs to be a specialist unit set up. It needs to be drawn up from police units outside the local areas where the trapping is a problem.
And of course, the fines need to be drastically increased, to reflect the crime.