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To: Nicos Anastasiades - President of the Republic of Cyprus
Stop Cyprus Slaughtering Europe's Songbirds
Please ensure that zero tolerance is adopted towards people identified as illegally trapping birds, as well as more efforts made to catch offenders. Many species of bird are affected, including the local species of Scops Owl, for which Cyprus has a special responsibility. As the only effective deterrent to stop this archaic and inhumane practice all offenders must be prosecuted, with the harshest possible penalties imposed, rather than, at best, often only having their trapping equipment confiscated. As a member state of the EU, it is indefensible that many fellow European nations are investing funds trying to conserve these bird species, only for Cypriot trappers to continue butchering them. Failing to eradicate a practice so far out of step with modern values, can only serve to adversely affect global perceptions of Cyprus and therefore damage tourism on the island.
Why is this important?
In spring many of us love to hear birdsong, to see and to feed the birds returning to our gardens across Europe. Sadly, year by year there are fewer and fewer of these joyful creatures safely making the journey as they are still being killed in huge numbers by trappers in Cyprus to provide the 'delicacy' of plates of grilled, boiled or pickled blackcap warblers and other songbirds. The Government of the Republic appears to lack the will to ensure adequate enforcement of the law despite local and international bans on trapping. As well as resident species, Cyprus is visited every year by millions of migrating birds, bird trapping is widespread and extensive, causing the large scale killing of an estimated 2.3 million birds a year, including species migrating in spring and autumn and wintering species, including many threatened and endangered ones. Survey records show that 153 bird species have been found in mist nets or limesticks (branches covered with glue), where they die a lingering and agonising death or wait to be killed by the trappers. The birds are often lured to the trapping sites by electronic calling devices playing the songs of migratory birds. 78 of those found are species declining in numbers and listed as threatened by the EU Birds Directive and/or Birdlife International. This indiscriminate trapping causes additional birds of species unwanted by the trappers to be killed and thrown away as "collateral damage" as it is considered 'unlucky' to release them. As well as the Blackcap Warblers, an extensive list of species being sacrificed to the massacre includes: Robins, Finches, Wagtails, Flycatchers, Chiffchaffs, Nightingales, Cuckoos, Owls, to name just a few. In fact, many of the birds on their way south after feeding in the safety of our gardens all summer.
Minimum effort is made to identify offenders and even then, usually results in only verbal warning or confiscation of trapping equipment. This is not enough to stop trappers as most of the raided sites are quickly reactivated. In Cyprus law these offences can incur fines of up to 17,000 euros and/or 3 years imprisonment, yet 850 euros is the average fine incurred by the few offenders who are prosecuted. Harsh penalties will be the only effective deterrent to stamp out this abhorrent practice.
We have a duty of care to the other creatures which share our planet home and must insist that governments robustly enforce the laws put in place to protect them. This suffering and needless slaughter must not be permitted to continue in the modern world. As Cyprus is a member of the EU, it makes a mockery of attempts to conserve bird species by other member states. Please don't wait until more species are lost forever due to the greed and inhumanity of the trappers.