Posted by: Dan | September 15, 2009

Responding to Bird Poachers in Cyprus

This is part of the series of posts Poaching in Cyprus FAQ

What can you do to help change public opinion in Cyprus?

Some people from outside Cyprus, and especially western/northern Europe and the US, will express the personal reaction on seeing that so many birds are being killed on Cyprus by asking for a boycott of Cypriot tourism (the main industry) and hope that economic pressure might work where legal requirements haven’t. The problem with a boycott response is that it would require solidarity against boycotting vacationing in Cyprus, which is not likely to happen. As such, the boycott option has not been thoroughly thought-out, and appears to be a plea for some form of action where there is only frustration.

Moreover, local tourism leaders are only just beginning to appreciate the worth of wildlife tourism. This means the economic value of this tourism sector is as yet unquantified, and thus largely undervalued – at present. If such visitors suddenly stopped coming, then the reaction would probably be “never mind, lets focus more on sun & sea tourism.” This would mean more pressure to build more hotels and villas, which would mean even more great habitat for migrant birds being destroyed by commercial development.

The best way to change public opinion in Cyprus is to simply show up, and let your enthusiasm for watching and conserving birds be contagious. Come here to enjoy wildlife in Cyprus, and tell as many people as possible while you are here that this is what you have come for.

Some other tips for non-Cypriots:

  1. Carry around your binoculars blatantly in Cyprus, or at least talk about your enjoyment of birds with local Cypriots. Many of them will be confused or bemused that you watch birds but don’t eat or shoot them, but most will listen at least. Open their minds to the possibility.
  2. When you come to Cyprus and go to a local tavern, ask if they serve ambelopoulia. You have to ask, because they are smart enough not to put it on the menu (they know that it’s technically illegal). If they serve ambelopoulia, walk out, and tell them why. If they don’t, enjoy the restaurant – traditional Cypriot food is quite good.
  3. If you’re from the EU, write to your local EuroMP about the issue. Brussels can do more to put pressure on Cyprus to end poaching.
  4. Become a ‘supporting member’ of the BirdLife Cyprus anti-trapping campaign. It costs only €5 and is valid for one year. Click here for a Supporting Membership application form.

Some other tips for Cypriots:

  1. Talk about your enjoyment of birds with your compatriots. Open their minds to the possibility of enjoying birds instead of eating, shooting or trapping them, and express your disapproval of those who do. Silence and indifference are part of the problem.
  2. Know which taverns will serve ambelopoulia, and avoid those taverns (Ask, don’t rely on the menu). Even better, let the owners know why you won’t eat there.
  3. Write to your MP about the issue. The more they hear about the issue, the more they will be pressured into taking action against poaching.
  4. Become a ‘supporting member’ of the BirdLife Cyprus anti-trapping campaign. It costs only €5 and is valid for one year. Click here for a Supporting Membership application form.

It’s simple, if the poaching issue is not “known”, local decision-makers can happily forget about it, they can pretend it has gone away. Coverage is directly correlated to enforcement action on the ground. Just tell the story on your blogs and sites and please link to the BirdLife Cyprus website.


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