Animal welfare activists long trying to put a stop to the import of exotic animals to Cyprus have welcomed news of a related state decree, but hope more will be done.
Following concerns raised by the Cyprus Game Fund, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos is shortly expected to issue an order banning the import to Cyprus of a number on non-indigenous animals, many of which are usually hunted.
Commenting on the news, Animal Party Cyprus founder Kyriacos Kyriacou yesterday told The Cyprus Daily the move indicated a serious lack of coordination between government departments as the Agriculture Ministry and Environment Service were also currently attempting to create a list of animals that could not be imported to Cyprus. “This is why we have been campaigning for the creation of an Animal Welfare Commissioner so that these efforts can be coordinated,” Kyriacou said. He said the move may be a step in the right direction but appeared to fall short of a directive impacting the Schengen Agreement.
That agreement allows free movement of EU member country people and goods including animals. Kyriacou says changes are necessary to better protect public health and native wildlife in Cyprus as well as throughout the EU.
“This is something Animal Responsibility Cyprus (ARC) and now Animal Party Cyprus has been working towards for some time,” said Kyriacou, who is a candidate for the party in Sunday’s Euro elections, said. Kyriacou, whose party is non-political - said the free movement of animals within the EU not only raised questions over the welfare of the animals themselves but also public health and the impact on the environment the creatures were being introduced into.
According to a report in Phileleftheros newspaper yesterday, Hasikos’ ban will cover several varieties of partridges including the Alectoris churkar, Alectoris rufa, Alectoris barbara and Alectoris francolinus; the black francolin (Francolinus francolinus) a gamebird in the pheasant family, Lepus europaeus hares, and the European rabbit or common rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
Also expected to be included in the ban are racoons (Procyon lotor), Virginia opossums and common brushtail possum (Didelphis virginiana and Trichosurus vulpecula), the European badger (Meles meles), and American mink (Mustela vison).
Hasikos’ order will also limit the export, possession, breeding, sale and release into the wild of the specific birds and animals. As well as the danger of bringing in diseases that their local kin may not have resistance to, the non-native creatures may also impact the genetic make-up of indigenous types through inter-breeding.