Posted by: Dan | May 10, 2009

Cyprus report from the Committee Against Bird Slaughter

Following yesterday’s press release of actions in Cyprus by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter, I’d like to parse through the CABS report in more detail (PDF). It’s pretty good, and begins with this section:

The preferred quarry of the poachers is small song birds, principally warblers, flycatchers and robins. They trap the birds either for their own consumption or for commercial trade. The birds, mostly weighing scarcely 20 grams, are sold to local butchers and find their way from there on to restaurant menus. The profit margins are so high that a flourishing trade in the protected birds has become established.

In this way poaching, particularly with the use of mist nets, has sharply increased in recent years. The cause for this is not least the negligent or indeed widespread lack of prosecution of offenders. Large sections of the population are well aware of the problem but either ignore it, or indeed actively support the poachers. With an annual catch of well over 10 million protected song birds, the Republic of Cyprus is today, ahead of Italy and Malta, the main focus of bird poaching in Europe.


For elaboration on which birds are protected by what laws, check out the EU Birds Directive. Also, to be honest, I think the toll for 2008 was only around 1.1 million birds, down from the 10 million plus numbers of the 1990s. That’s still horrible, but I don’t want us to reporting old data as if it were up-to-date (They defend their estimates in the report however, and I could be wrong…).

Most importantly is the emphasis on the toleration of this poaching by the Cypriots themselves, enabling poaching to continue. As Martin Hellicar noted on 10,000 Birds, it’s a remarkably rare event that a Cypriot will report evidence of these poaching activities. (Usually, it is Brits and other foreigners who report instances to the authorities, and even then, authorities face an uphill battle in getting the courts to rule for harsh penalties).

The CABS report continues with a lot of detailed description of the use of limesticks and mist nets in Cyprus, followed by hard numbers from their recent actions:

In the southeast of the island in particular, around the towns of Paralimni and Agia Napa, prepared installations for lime sticks can be found in some 80 % of all private gardens and orchards. In spring about a quarter of these installations are active.

According to conservative estimates by CABS, some 15,000 to 20,000 lime sticks are set out on the south coast of Cyprus in spring. In the Paralimni/Agia Napa area alone, the number of lime sticks probably amount to some 5,000 to 10,000. In autumn these numbers are at least four times higher and therefore probably total some 100,000!

During the bird protection camp in April/May 2009 over 200 trapping facilities were located between Limassol and Agia Napa. At 48 of these locations a total of 2,136 lime sticks were found and dismantled. Most installations had on average between 20 to 40 lime sticks; an exception was an installation of 3 hectares (7. 5 acres) near Paralimni with 409 lime sticks. Electronic decoys were active. In eight of the lime stick installations. The Cyprus Police and the Game Fund were called to six fenced-in gardens and orchards where traps had been set out.

In total the CABS teams found 143 birds on lime sticks, 25 of which were already dead. Some 45 % of all trapped birds were Blackcaps; other species included in particular Spectacled Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Pied, Collared and Spotted Flycatcher, as well as Sedge Warbler, Golden Oriole, Turtle Dove, Bee-eater, Wryneck and a single Tawny Owl.

No comments to add here – I don’t really have to, other than to say I think these numbers sound like fair and conservatives estimates indeed, as CABS claims.

Actually, I do have one comment – the electronic decoys that they mention are used frequently, which play recorded Blackcap calls to lure the birds near limesticks (and mist nets).

The report goes on to describe mist nets (both estimates and actual findings), make note of two incidents in which the CABS team alleges they were assaulted by poachers, found at least 10 restaurants and a butcher willing to sell ambelopoulia. Most importantly though, they comment more on the tolerance (and lack of prosecution) of offenders:

The maximum penalty for poaching or trade in protected birds on Cyprus is a fine of 17,000 Euros or a 3 year jail sentence. In recent years such severe penalties have not been imposed. The average penalty a poacher can expect is a fine of about 3,000 Euros.

A prosecution rarely follows in the majority of cases. Both the Cyprus Police and the Game Fund freely admit that they usually only seize the illegal traps and nets and that the poachers, if they can indeed be identified, escape with a warning. Even the landholders of fenced-in properties where traps are found, and ownership is not in doubt, are not as a rule prosecuted.

All the police officers and game wardens we spoke to on operations were of the opinion that lime sticks were very much the lesser of two evils. In effect it became evident to us that trapping birds on lime sticks appears to be widely tolerated by the state as a peccadillo. Nonetheless, net trapping, considered by the authorities to be the much greater problem, is seldom prosecuted with the full force of the law. Since 2007, according to the police, only some 200 official complaints have been investigated.

Planned ambush operations by the police or game wardens (as conducted in Italy) of lime stick or net installations seldom take place. Although the number and extent of trapping installations would make such operations child’s play, the officers showed little interest in those we reported to them, even the few very extensive installations. This undoubtedly politically intended disinterest in prosecution of offenders is the greatest problem at present on Cyprus, and is certainly the reason for the further escalating phenomenon of
poaching on the island.

If this bothers you, I ask you to email this article to friends. Spread the word – perhaps by raising this issue in the European community we, who aren’t Cypriots and look in from the outside, and create some pressure for action from within.



  1. […] Prior host of IATB Migrations brings home the Political Action Award for his work breaking down the Cyprus Report from the Committee Against Bird Slaughter.  It totally knocks the socks off the report from the Committee FOR Bird […]

  2. did you know, that in the north of the island, the turks violate human rights? That there are home owners that cannot enjoy their properties? That ancient churches are transformed into farms?
    Thank you for your interest in saving poor little birds. The slaughtering of birds, occurs also in the northern part. Could you be as sensitive, for bird and people, in the North of Cyprus, where there is Turkish occupation?

  3. Yes I do know that. It doesn’t make ambelopoulia any less of a crime however, in the north or south of Cyprus. Sadly, I don’t have any news to share concerning ambelopoulia in the north (although obviously I do for the south). If you come across some news about this, please share it with me and I will post it in the same way to make it a bit more equal.


  4. well, as you well written, in the south there is a law prohibiting slaugtering of ampelopoulia. In the north, that law does not exist. Im surprised in a bad way, that you did not mention anything about turkish occupation and peoples human rights…

  5. Yes, as I’ve said I’m aware of the Turkish occupation’s human rights violations, and I’m outraged at that as well. I hope it doesn’t seem that I’m not.

    Why do I focus on birds however? Because it’s what I know. I’m a biologist and well-studied on this topic, so I think that I’m more of an expert on the subject than most people. On Turkish rights violations, I don’t feel that I should make myself appear as an expert.

  6. Also, you were right to point out that I should write about ambelopoulia in the occupied areas as well as in the Republic of Cyprus, even if I don’t have so much information on trapping in the north. I am starting to gather information on that topic and will write an article on that in the next few days.

  7. I ll be waiting to see that. Anyway in the southen part of Cyprus, where law prohibits slayghtering of ampelopoulia and the fines are pretty heavy(17000 euros and or 3 years imprisonment), it’ s expected for people to brake these laws. In the northern part, where the legal cypriot governement cannot be of control, things are verry bad. I hear that Greek Cypriots that cross the check points smuggle whith them ampelopoulia from the north, because it is verry difficult to find them in the south…

  8. Yes, those are the penalties that can be given to offenders here in the south, but they never are given to that extent. In September of last year is the best example, where a person in the Larnaca district was found with more than 500 ambelopouli and equipment to make limesticks. He was fined 500Euros (which makes in a week) and set free. He started again 3 days later, but I haven’t heard of him being fined a second time. So even for those who get caught and are fined, they’re never actually fined the full amount. Most trappers however are not caught.

    But that’s not the source of the problem. The source is the restaurants who continue to make illegal ambelopoulia popular. It’s fairly well known to anyone who bothers to ask around which restaurants serve this “delicacy,” and serving it is just as illegal as trapping it. Despite this, the authorities completely ignore the restaurants, and do not punish them.

    A lot of people are very angry that the police and game service are not doing their jobs about this. They should not ignore the restaurants like this.

  9. you know that there is law against drugs, drug dealing, planting cannabis, drug smuggling, there are laws for all sorts of things, and people keep braking them, and none is able to do anything about it. When a peson is caught to commit a crime for the firs time, the sentense is not as big. It grows bigger and bigger, as one repetedly commits the same crime. Anyway, I keep telling you and you don t seem to understand me. IN THE OCCUPIED AREAS, WHERE HUMAN RIGHTS ARE NOT RESPECTED, they kill ampelopoulia by hundrets and none can do anything about it. They violate the fundamental right of freedom and property, and NONE does anything about it. I m glad to here that you are a biologist, and as you might know, your sciense commes from the greek word BIOS, that means life. So I would expect of you, to care, as a human, for the humans, more than you do for birds.


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