I ended my last post by alluding to illegal bird trapping in Cyprus. It’s referred to as Ambelopoulia (or Ambeloboulia – “p” is prounounced more like a “b” in Greek, and the emphasis is on the “-ou-“), which is the pluralized Greek word for Blackcaps. I’ve blogged a good bit on the topic, Charlie has a useful podcast on the topic, and you can read last year’s trapping report from BirdLife Cyprus to get caught up to speed.
Obviously Animal Rights’ Activists will take issue with this kind of trapping. But their concerns are not why this trapping is illegal. The law is laid out in the European Commission’s Directive on the conservation of wild birds. But still, that’s lawyer-speak.
In simple terms then, why is the Ambelopoulia trapping a problem? Answer: The trapping methods used are so indiscriminant and result in the deaths of birds from such a wide array of species. Individual birds from over 150 (!!!) different species have been found to be trapped and killed. Even worse, the number of species with conservation status of “vulnerable” or worse exceeds 28, and the number of species with limited global range includes at least 9 species, according to surveys. Just about any bird that would fly through a garden, orchard, or similar habitat can fall prey to the trapping methods used in Cyprus.
Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Pied/Collared Flycatchers, Subalpine Warbler and European Robin — all killed in staggering numbers.
Nightingale, Thrush Nightingale, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, Golden Oriole, Bonelli’s Warbler and Common Cuckoo — all difficult birds to see even for an experienced birder who is familiar with the Cyprus landscape — are also killed, and in saddening numbers.
Even Pallid Harrier, Merlin, Lesser Kestrel, Barn Owl, Short-eared Owl, and Long-eared Owl are killed. And many more species that have also been trapped illegally, in Cyprus. The list goes on and on and on.
A fair number of European nations spend a good bit of money trying to conserve these species, and every year Cypriot trappers reap the rewards. More than 1 million birds are trapped annually in Cyprus. By one estimate, 70% of the passerines that wander haplessly into the wrong garden, orchard or similar habitat are killed.
Photo credits: The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) / www.komitee.de
PHOTO CAPTIONS (Credit: CABS):
1) Dead warblers, Ambelopoulia, plucked and ready to be cooked
2) Barred Warbler found dead in the glue
3) Collared Flycatcher in a garden prepared for trapping
The latest report on trapping from BirdLife Cyprus
Listen to Charlie’s interview with BirdLife Cyprus’ campaign manager
Songbirds, Killed and Eaten, by Jonathan Franzen
I’m ill at the thought of this. It’s heartbreaking and quite simply, evil.
The blog posts, news articles, etc about the horrific slaughter of birds on Cyprus are informative and heartbreaking. Other than signing petitions and donating funds to BirdLife Malta and CABS, what can we do to help put a stop to this?
Dan, great post – it’s fantastic to be part of a blog that’s helping to spread awareness of this illegal and unforgiveable slaughter around the world.
Veronica – what more can we do? Support BirdLife Cyprus (supplying ambelopoulia is an organised crime now and fundamentally a different problem to the random illegal shooting of birds that occurs on Malta), tell everyone you know/link to this article, mail your MEP (if you live in Europe) protesting about Cyprus’ failure to follow the EU Birds Directive, and mail the Cypriot embassy expressing your disgust.
@Veronica – As Charlie says you can mail your MEP, you can subscribe or donate to BirdLife Cyprus, you can volunteer for CABS trips, or you can sign this petition started jointly by BirdLife Cyprus, CABS, Friends of the Earth Cyprus and Terra Cypria. By signing the petition, you also send an protest email to the Ministers of Agriculture and the Environment, the Interior, and Justice, of the Republic of Cyprus.
All I can say is I am disgusted and dismayed at what seems to be a lack of humanity here. Do the people of Cyprus just think that the bird supply is unlimited? The only way I see to stop this insanity is to put pressure on the tourist trade. Publicize what’s going on, picket restaurants selling the illegal ambelopoulia. Make sure that what is happening in Cyprus indeed gets broadcast all over he world rather than, as the Cypriots would like, stays in Cyrus. After reading Jonathan’s story, it sounds like a war to me.
Thank you all for the suggestions. I have signed the petition and shared the information with many, posted it on our local Audubon chapter’s facebook page and will work to get the word out elsewhere. Will also encourage others to donate to the respective organizations involved. Thank you for publicizing this and keeping the rest of us around the world informed.
I’m living in Cyprus (half English, half Cypriot) and all I can say is thank you for posting this story! Thank you for taking this simple stand against the Cypriots and their barbaric ways! There is a lot of animal cruelty in Cyprus and the more people know about it, the better! So THANK YOU! again!! People forget about this practice, and no doubt it is still going on. There are laws, but they are rarely implemented when it comes to animals.Maria, Larnaca.
I JUST found out about this horrendously evil business of trapping birds in Cyprus from a tweet on Twitter.
I read a couple of articles, posted one to Facebook with my reaction to this pathetic practice. I cannot believe there are “people” such as those in Cyprus doing such sick and saddening things to such beautiful and innocent birds!! But I guess I am still “a dreamer” (John Lennon “Imagine”). I respect life and that of the innocent is most sacred. My disdain for the illegal trappers and those who eat these beautiful creatures cannot be expressed — my anger is too great. My tears for the wee birds are many.
You just have culture shock. The thing is birds have been trapped and eaten this way for 4000 years on Cyprus. They are very tasty when BBQed. I like BBQ birds very much. They are a traditional source of protein for the islanders. I think eating beef is much more ecologically unsustainable. No rainforests were destroyed so an ampelobouli could be trapped in Cyprus. Its a matter of culture shock for over weight westerners.Tuna fishing is also animal cruelty. Cypriots also enjoy eating bizare things like snails and the local legand is that they used to eat pygmy elephants and hippos. Eating trapped migrating birds in Cyprus is an ecologically sustainable tradition which has gone on longer than your counties have even existed. If this traditional food source did not exist during years of slavery and occupation by the Muslim Ottomans. Pork and trapped bird meat was the only source of protein.
“No rainforests were destroyed so an ampelobouli could be trapped in Cyprus. Its a matter of culture shock for over weight westerners.”
Over 150 species of birds ARE slaughtered.
Approximately 30 rare and threatened species of birds are slaughtered.
“They are a traditional source of protein for the islanders.”
I live in Cyprus. With the amount of souvla and such that you have, trust me, you have PLENTY of protein already.
Agreed, Dan! I couldn’t possibly overstate how wrong “Ampelobouli enthusiast” is about the sustainability of ampelopoulia in modern Cyprus!
Plus, there’s no “legend” about the hunting of pygmy hippos and elephants in Cyprus, it is fact. And actually, Cypriots caused their extinction on the island. There’s even a book about it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Faunal-Extinction-Island-Society-Interdisciplinary/dp/0306460882
Also I loved this bit:
“I think eating beef is much more ecologically unsustainable.”
This is so completely wrong. Beef comes from domesticated cattle, NOT from wild animals caught by a trapping method, and there is no accidental slaughter of other animals when slaughtering cattle for beef.
I can’t believe that “Ampelobouli enthusiast” doesn’t realize this. He must be a real idiot.
The fact is that, at most, only 45% of the birds slaughtered by mist netting and limesticks are actually ambelopoulia.
the ambelopoulia is typical from greece,but in realty it occurs in all countries of the basin in the mediterranean,because it is a very ancient tradition, and in some countries not much developed economically ,some people tends to do this practice to obtain protein,specially poor people,because of this the predation of the songbirds continues in fast all over edges of the mediterranean sea,like a mixing of tradition and needs