Martin Hellicar just informed me that the report had been release this past week, for this past Winter’s trapping levels in Cyprus. See BirdLife Cyprus‘s posting here: Winter 2011 Trapping Report for their release, or download a PDF of the report.
Summary of the report’s findings:
- 53 1-km2 squares were surveyed, finding almost a total of 1km active / prepared rides for the setting of mist nets. Overall, trapping activity appears to have decreased compared to the levels recorded in winter 2009-10. The relatively small number of thrushes (Turdus philomelos) wintering in Cyprus in 2010-11 was undoubtedly a key factor for this reduced trapping activity.
- In keeping with the overall pattern described above, winter mist netting activity was down by just over 60% in the Sovereign Base Areas (SBA), but, despite ongoing enforcement efforts, recorded trapping activity with mist nets (active net rides) was again much higher (nearly two times higher on average per square checked) in SBA compared to the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) areas, in line with the recorded pattern of recent seasons.
- Overall for the year 2010, trapping activity (measured on basis of recorded active net rides) was highest in autumn, followed by spring and winter seasons, as would be expected given bird abundance patterns during autumn, spring and winter.
- It is estimated that over 231,000 birds were caught in nets within the survey area during the 2010-11 winter season (and nearly 310,000 birds across Cyprus).
- As for the year 2010 overall, the estimated toll reached just over 1,813,000 birds for the survey area and almost 2,418,000 birds across the whole of Cyprus.
Without a determined and consistent action from the competent authorities to target the demand and availability of birds in restaurants and without a massive targeted public information and awareness raising campaign, then the atrocious death toll of 2010 will likely be repeated and could even get worse. Finally, it is necessary for true political will to be shown at the highest level in support for increased enforcement action, which is also necessary in order to fully tackle this intractable problem.
And in true BirdLife form, the report follows strict rules of backing everything up in a methodical and empirical manner. The discussion section of the report elaborates a bit:
Overall the field data recorded for the winter 2010-11 season suggest that the trapping activity was lower than the preceding year (winter 2009-10) which is good news. On the other hand, we believe, this decrease does not reflect a behavioral and cultural change in illegal trapping. Nor can this change be attributed solely to enforcement of the legislation by the competent authorities, which undertook raids and operations to confiscate illegal trapping equipment and ambelopoulia served in restaurants. The primary factor keeping trapping levels (relatively) low is more likely the low numbers of wintering song thrushes, the trappers’ main winter target species.
Despite the positive news about the decline in winter bird trapping (and regardless of the underlying reasons for this reduction) the year 2010 has seen a disastrous “slaughter” of birds in Cyprus. The death toll was estimated to be in the order of 2,5 million birds across the Island, which suggests that illegal trapping was higher than previous years (for 2009 it was estimated that just over 2 million birds were killed across the island). This is an unacceptable situation considering the volume of bird killing and the non selective nature of the trapping. Evidence from well documented reports4 has shown that as many as 122 different bird species have been recorded as caught on mist nets and limesticks, of which 58 species are listed as threatened by BirdLife International and the EU Birds Directive (2009/147/EC) and should receive special conservation measures for their survival and protection. Ironically 2010 was the “International year of Biodiversity” where global efforts were taking place to halt biodiversity loss, but obviously not in Cyprus, at least not when it came to bird trapping.
The successful raids on restaurants suspected of serving ambelopoulia seen in the late autumn of 2010 and winter 2010-2011 need to become the “norm”. BirdLife Cyprus calls upon the competent authorities to draw up targeted action plans and to allocate additional resources to reverse this situation, since bird trapping has been steadily increasing in the recent four years. Truly effective enforcement is necessary to deal with the well organized network of illegal trappers who are making millions of Euros out of this illegal practice and the restaurants which are serving the ambelopoulia delicacies to indifferent customers. Moreover true political will and support to enforcement authorities for more enforcement is vital. Finally, it is clear that a big awareness raising campaign, targeting the ‘indifferent’ public is needed in order to bring about a change in public opinion.
Recalling one of the first studies done regarding bird trapping in Cyprus, by Hubbard (1968), the researcher had reached the conclusion that “…The basic answer seems to be one of education; education at all levels and in a massive dose…Much more is necessary in order to bring the subject to wider attention, especially in the schools and via the mass media”. Ironically this statement is even truer in today’s Cyprus, more than 40 years after Hubbard’s report, when the public is the driver for the ambelopoulia market. Changing public attitude is the core for stamping out bird trapping and BirdLife Cyprus is determined to continue and step up its “enlightenment” efforts against bird trapping.
Education and awareness raising could also help redress the other serious gap in effective enforcement: the absence of deterrent penalties being imposed by local courts to offenders, despite the harsh penalties foreseen in the law.