Bird conservation group BirdLife Cyprus is calling on the public to boycott restaurants that serve illegal ambelopoulia, as the main trapping season gets well underway.
Speaking to The Cyprus Weekly, campaigns manager for the organisation Martin Hellicar explained that every autumn the influx of ambelopoulia (otherwise known as songbirds) to Cyprus increases as does the activity of bird trappers.
“We wish to remind the public of our ongoing ‘Just say No’ campaign, which asks consumers to embargo any restaurants that break the law by serving ambelopoulia and to report them to the authorities.”
The spokesman added that BirdlifeCyprus is anticipating a challenging autumn and is already having to deal with serious problems in Akrotiri where hunters are illegally shooting down bee-eaters in large numbers.
“While these birds used to be legal game they are now a protected species which means that hunting them is a serious poaching offence,” said Hellicar.
“Many hunters in Akrotiri jump fences to get into the buffer zone where they have found an enforcement gap but we are working closely with the authorities to prevent this from happening,” he added.
Birdlife Cyprus recently held its second meeting regarding a strategic action plan against poaching that is set to launch in mid October and involves the participation of a number of non government organisations as well as the all the relevant local authorities.
“The aim is to bring together all the affiliated authorities and push on all fronts,” said Hellicar.
This is the only way we can effectively combat poaching and the public can help us to put a stop on the demand of illegal ambelopoulia by just saying no.”
BirdLife data shows that thousands of birds are killed in mist nets and on limesticks in Cyprus each year to end up as expensive delicacies while the indiscriminate nature of the trapping means many rare and threatened species are also caught.
The Game Services Department estimates that the poaching industry in Cyprus is worth over €15 million annually while a plate of a dozen ambelopoulia can be sold for as much as €100 on the black market.
Large numbers of migratory birds fly through Cyprus each season triggering a killing frenzy of rare birds which has tarnished the island’s reputation internationally.
Critics accuse the authorities of being too lax in clamping down the illicit trade while the punishment does not fit the crime.