BirdLife International and its national Partner BirdLife Cyprus (BirdLife in Cyprus) strongly opposed today’s decision by the Cypriot government to allow spring shooting of Carrion Crow Corvus corone and Black-billed Magpie Pica pica. This is viewed as a backdoor allowing hunters to shoot European Turtle-doves Streptopelia turtur. The EU Birds Directive prohibits the shooting of wild birds in spring to ensure they get a chance to breed and raise their young. Last week the European Court of Justice ordered Malta not to open a spring hunting season for European Turtle-dove and Common Quail Coturnix coturnix.
In today’s announcement, the Cypriot government justified the decision by referring to the damage Carrion Crows and Black-billed Magpies cause to crops and livestock. BirdLife however, stressed that no evidence was produced for such damage, and that instead the government tried to provide a cover for illegal hunting of European Turtle-dove and other species protected during their spring migration such as European Bee-eater Merops apiaster and Common Quail.
BirdLife International and Birdlife Cyprus informed the European Commission when the Cyprus plans were announced. BirdLife has today filed a formal complaint, highlighting a clear breach of the EU Birds Directive.
This announcement of the Cypriot government is a post-election reward for the national hunting lobby and a provocation to the European Union. Cyprus, like any other Member State, needs to comply with EU law. If migratory birds are put at risk in such a way, many will be shot on their journey to Central and Northern Europe.
—Konstantin Kreiser, EU Policy Manager, BirdLife International
When Cyprus gave permission for the spring shooting of European Turtle-dove last year, the European Commission warned that it was infringing the EU Birds Directive – which was followed by a promise of the Cypriot government not to open spring hunting of European Turtle-doves again.
Fulfilling a pre-election promise made to hunters, the government this year is going ahead under the disguise of shooting crows and magpies. It is allowing six days of shooting (May 1, 3, 4, 7, 10 and 11 2008) across the whole country at a time when European Turtle-doves are migrating and crows are unlikely to do any crop damage.
The shooting of crows for population control purposes, although not favoured by BirdLife, is not uncommon. In Cyprus it has been allowed during June and July since 2004. This is a time when European Turtle-doves are not migrating, and permission was confined to restricted areas.
“There has been no change in the birds’ behaviour in Cyprus since last year. Therefore if June and July were good enough for controlling the birds last year, and the years before that, it should good enough for 2008”, said Martin Hellicar, Executive Manager of BirdLife Cyprus.