Illegal Songbird Slaughter Still Occurs on Cyprus Today

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This video below the jump records and documents the astonishing arrogance and viciousness of Cypriot bird slaughterers who continue to wantonly kill tens of millions of migratory songbirds every year so their bodies can be sold to restaurants who then sell them as a delicacy, often to tourists. These slaughterers kill endangered species as well as common; songbirds as well as owls, birds of prey and other non-passerine species. In fact, NO BIRD IS SAFE from them. Since laws to protect birds are obviously ineffective, I strongly urge you to (a) never visit Cyprus, (b) never do business with or in Cyprus, (c) never purchase anything produced in Cyprus and (d) always tell them why you are boycotting Cyprus and Cypriot products. As it is, I will be living in Germany next year, and I am seriously thinking that I'll join the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) in the field and help them remove birds from nets as well as documenting this slaughter with photographs, video and through my words on my blog.

The Greek-Cypriot south of the new EU member state Cyprus has become a death trap for the birds which migrate across the Eastern Mediterranean. Countless trappers set up their nets, and above all lime sticks, in almond and olive groves, in gardens and in the macchia in order to trap migrant song birds resting on passage. The main victims of the lime sticks are warblers and thrushes; but cuckoos, owls and other protected birds are also caught. The trapped birds are destined for the pot, not infrequently in restaurants, where they are sold at a high price as delicacies.

Bird trapping has long been banned on the island the relevant legislation was indeed tightened up on accession to the EU in 2004 but the poachers are unimpressed and continue to break the law. Some offenders scarcely bother to conceal their trapping sites, not least because large sections of the rural population have little awareness of their wrongdoing. The police and other agencies are not idle; but they do not have enough personnel to effectively combat poaching.

The Lega Abolizione Caccia (League for the Abolition of Hunting) our most important Italian partner organisation has been active on Cyprus since 1999. In several operations financed by CABS, the volunteer Italian conservationists have dismantled several thousand lime sticks and dozens of large mist nets. From spring 2008 onwards a CABS bird protection camp will also be operated on the island.

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It's sad and discouraging that this is still going on. I wonder if the rest of the EU can put some pressure on Cyprus to enforce the anti-poaching laws better and end it.

I lived in north Cyprus for several years (working as a professor at one of their faux-universities). When I left the U and moved to a small village to sample village life, I found to my horror that some of the locals engaged in the practice of killing and eating songbirds. The late autumn brings the so-called "hunting" season, in which they use dogs to scare anything that lives from the brush so it can be shot. It is clearly more about asserting masculinity than it is about food. The normal E.U. laws don't apply in the north, given its status as a Turkish protectorate. From an environmental and humanitarian perspective, it's a very sad situation.

The situation with illegal trapping of birds in Cyprus is extremely disappointing, and I am ashamed of it.
But please do not forget that there are people on the island who are fighting against these criminals. BirdLife Cyprus estimate that there has been a huge reduction in trapping since the 1990s, thanks to improvements in law enforcement (
Obviously there is still a very long and difficult way to go, but supporting organisations like BirdLife Cyprus is perhaps a better way of helping us along the way than ostracism.

Since laws to protect birds are obviously ineffective, I strongly urge you to (a) never visit Cyprus, (b) never do business with or in Cyprus, (c) never purchase anything produced in Cyprus and (d) always tell them why you are boycotting Cyprus and Cypriot products.

There are other options that may prove more effective. Such as detailed in this interview on 10,000 Birds with BirdLife Cyprus campaign manager Martin Hellicar:

Question: My personal reaction on seeing that so many birds are being killed on Cyprus is to yell âBoycottâ from the rooftops and hope that economic pressure might work where legal requirements havenât. You obviously understand the situation far better than I do - could such an approach make any difference at all to the number of birds being killed on the island?

Martin Hellicar: I think a boycott would backfire.

Only now are local tourism bosses 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 â at present. If such visitors suddenly stopped coming, then the reaction would probably be ânever mind, lets focus more on sun & sea tourismâ. This would mean more pressure to build more hotels and villas, which would mean even more great habitat for migrant birds going under concreteâ¦

My feeling is that it is important that people come here to enjoy our wildlife and to tell as many people as possible while they are out here that this is what they have come for! Positive pressure for conservation is what will work.

Q: What can birders worldwide do to help BirdLife Cyprus turn around the awful situation facing migrant birds?

MH: There are a number of things:

- Come to Cyprus to watch birds â and tell locals thatâs why youâre here!

- Write to your local EuroMP about the issue â Brussels can do more to put pressure on Cyprus to end this thing.

- Become a âsupporting memberâ of the BirdLife Cyprus anti-trapping campaign â it costs very little and will seriously increase our punching weight with the local authorities.

Q:Many of the people reading this will have blogs which in turn attract a huge number of readers: do you have a specific message for other bloggers regarding publicising whatâs happening to birds on Cyprus?

MH: Itâs simple, if the issue is not âknownâ, 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.

Why not concentrate on humans that are dying?

Or the fact that Cyprus is divided and the human suffering on both sides
is immense?

Yet you want to save some birds?

The situation is the same in Malta, which is a full EU member. Maybe they don't think that killing migratory birds is evil, because they see those birds only as trespassers. Many of the birds nest in Scandinavia and northern Russia, and they pass Cyprus and Malta only on their way to (and from) their wintering grounds in Africa.

They are killing and eating FINNISH birds!!! The same birds that GrllScientist was watching and listening to only a few weeks ago...

By Lassi Hippeläinen (not verified) on 15 Sep 2009 #permalink

This is a very common practise on the Greek mainland as small boys will often walk around with pellet guns indescriminately shooting songbirds and leaving the creatures dying on the ground. Many housewives will clean and cook the songbirds and often store them in jars of oil to be consumed with meals, kind of a country delight. Chickla and Coseva, members of the thrush family are shot with shotguns and often sold on the menu in season at local restaurants in the Pelopenese where I lived for many years. before I was a bird enthusiast I would go out hunting the larger birds myself for food. David in Ontario

By David Tucker (not verified) on 15 Sep 2009 #permalink

And: so you think that we should be concerned about human lives to the exclusion of the health of the world that human lives inhabit?

I'm glad we don't all think that way, or human lives would be lived in far more poverty in a world even more stripped of beauty and resources than it is.

But here's the basic thing: there are a lot of people. We are capable of caring about a lot of things. And people DO care about many different things. Deal.

By Luna_the_cat (not verified) on 15 Sep 2009 #permalink


Here in MitcHELL County, Kansas almost no one seems to care if our songbirds are frightened and fly away whenever a vehicle with a noisy muffler or boombox speeds by. As soon as the noisy lowlifes can be heard approaching while blocks away, I tell my neighbor that we're hearing the mating calls of the (unfortunately not endangered) MitcHELL County "horny birds"! But it really isn't funny and we've noticed that it's basically the ugliest kids who are the noisiest - the only way they can attract flighty females. Let's hear no more talk about "Kansas values"! Would love to hear some reactions to this. Almost desperate, Karl (in Karl's Kastle)