Cyprus has found itself on the receiving end of a royal criticism with Britain's Prince Charles sending a private letter to the commander of the British Bases and copied to President Nicos Anastasiades condemning the "industrial scale killing" of migrating songbirds.
Favourite garden birds migrating between Britain and their African wintering quarters are among the estimated 1.5 million birds slaughtered on Cyprus every year, Britain's The Mail on Sunday said, adding "Birdwatch International estimates that about 500,000 are killed on British bases".
Known in Cyprus as 'Ambelopoulia', the birds are killed in nets and lime sticks to create a dish considered by many to be a traditional delicacy and even natural aphrodisiac. The practices used to kill the birds were made illegal many years ago, as is eating them, but this continues on the quiet with tavernas covertly serving the dish for as much as €80 per serving.
In a private letter seen by the paper, the Prince has taken what is considered to be highly unusual step of writing to condemn the "industrial scale killing".
According to The Mail on Sunday's online report, Charles claims it is big business, run by 'serious organised criminals' which he says rake in £12 million (€14,342,000) a year.
In his letter, Prince Charles writes: "Disturbingly, autumn mist-netting levels are now much higher on this British soil than in the Republic of Cyprus, with mist-netting in the SBAs estimated to have increased 180% since 2002." The UK paper's report noted: "The killing fields are centred on the British Sovereign Base Area (SBA) of Dhekelia, on Cyprus's southern coast, close to the tourist hot-spot of Ayia Napa."
According to the paper, trappers place their lures at night. "Early the next morning, they return for their grisly harvest, ripping the terrified birds from the fine-mesh 'mist' nets or glue-covered branches, often leaving the entangled feet behind, then killing them with a cocktail stick or a penknife to the throat."
The Prince's intervention included asking for the infrastructure which permits this illegal slaughter, including planted avenues of invasive acacia, to be removed from the UK's Ministry of Defence-administered land by the start of the autumn migration period in September.
"This would not only at a stroke save hundreds of thousands of birds being killed illegally on British soil, but would also prevent significant profits from flowing into the pockets of the serious organised criminals who control this barbaric practice," his letter said, according to The Mail on Sunday.
Charles also noted the bird haul included "many species which are much-loved by the British public, such as robins, song thrushes and barn owls".
Martin Hellicar, Cyprus representative of Birdlife International, told the British paper: "An Army training ground has been turned over to wildlife crime. Can you imagine that happening in Wiltshire?"
The paper also said: "Arrested trappers are given fines of a few hundred euros, although one man was recently jailed for two months. Critics say the treatment of trappers fails to deter."