NICOSIA - A local conservationist group on Thursday applauded a court decision to drop accusations involving four Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) activists and fine a poacher for the possession and use of illegal bird traps.
Speaking to The Cyprus Daily, Campaigns Manager for BirdLife Cyprus Martin Hellicar said the Famagusta District Court’s decision set an important precedent for protecting and conserving wildlife on the island.
“We are delighted to see the accusations dismissed, the activists receive compensation for the injuries they received and a poacher fined.
“Justice has been served and lies about the activities of environmental activists presented in certain sections of the media have been exposed.”
The accusations were dropped in front of the court and the activists received compensation of €7,000 from a bird trapper who was ordered to pay €500 for the possession and use of illegal traps (60 limesticks).
According to CABS, the case was filed on October 1, 2013. Four CABS members located approximately 60 limesticks in an open area near the Sotira Municipal Forest.
While they were collecting the limesticks from the bushes, two men appeared at the spot, the younger man was holding a long wooden cudgel.
The four bird conservationists started moving away, but at some point the young man caught one of them and started punching and beating him with the cudgel.
Two of the CABS members, who were trying to help their colleague, were also badly beaten.
As a result, one CABS member was seriously injured on his left eye and foot.
Furthermore, another CABS officer who was filming the whole incident received serious injuries to his ear and his back.
The two poachers also took a digital video camera and mobile phone from another of the activists and smashed his glasses.
The conservationists were later treated at Famagusta General Hospital where one of the CABS officers was examined for possible damage to his hearing.
Commenting on the decision after the trial, CABS Field Investigations Officer Andrea Rutigliano said environmental justice had been served.
“We also welcome the statement of the judge, who emphasised in the trial that bird trapping is a common crime in Famagusta area and that wild birds and nature must be seriously protected.”
The Game Services Department estimates that the illegal bird trapping industry in Cyprus is worth over €15 million annually. while a plate of a dozen ambelopoulia (otherwise known as songbirds) can be sold for as much as €90 on the black market, making it a lucrative trade during a deep recession that is fuelling the slaughter of birds.