It was on concluding my interview with Lilia Kapsali that I fully grasped the essence of everything we had been talking about for the past half hour.
Rather soft spoken, but precise in her choice of words, BirdLife’s development officer recounts the association’s history with accuracy and a hidden passion for the cause she’s involved in. But it’s her experiences that demonstrate what the association embodies - protection of birds and their habitats.
“I was driving, leaving work, on this road and I saw 20 flamingos passing over us, here in Lakatamia. Everyone keeps on doing their own thing but if you know what’s going on out there, at this time of the year, you see things,” Lilia rounds up as I attempt to gather my belongings.
In an attempt to inspire people and show them that Cypriots’ strong bond with nature and birds through the ages, BirdLife Cyprus and the Leventis Municipal Museum of Nicosia are hosting a multidisciplinary exhibition in the Museum’s grounds in the heart of the Nicosia old town.
“From the World of Cyprus Birds”, the exhibition presents photographs depicting birds of Cyprus in their natural habitat, and showcases objects from the Museum collections, which depict birds or have the shape and form of birds.
Marking BirdLife’s tenth anniversary, the content of the exhibition has been displayed in a manner which intends to help acquaint the public with the world of Cyprus birds and portray the presence of birds in various forms of art through the ages.
BirdLife’s presence as an NGO working to protect wild birds, their habitats and wider biodiversity in Cyprus and Leventis Museum’s sheer dedication to the local arts in general only begin to depict the island’s importance as far as the exhibition’s subject matter is concerned.
Cyprus is an important place for birds at a national, European and global level, mainly due to its geographical location. Situated on one of the key migratory corridors of Europe, it is estimated that during migration, around 150 million birds pass through Cyprus as they migrate between Europe, Africa and Eurasia.
Having been identified as an Endemic Bird Area of World Importance by BirdLife International, BirdLife Cyprus is predominantly focusing on two campaigns at the moment.
“One of our main campaigns is against illegal bird trapping. For this we have a monitoring programme, where a person who goes out into the fields and basically counts how many nets and limesticks he can find. We use that data to lobby for enforcement and to raise awareness,” Lilia tells me.
“Our other campaign is for the protection of important bird areas in Cyprus, the Natura 2000 network. What we do is we recognise which areas in Cyprus are important for birds and lobby to get them protected. And we have managed to get most of them designated and protected by the Cyprus government.”
But aside this, BirdLife Cyprus also has other interests such as lobbying for a more sustainable common agriculture policy of the EU, organising educational programmes and raising awareness in schools, monitoring appropriate assessment procedures when developments are proposed in the Natura 2000 area and climate change adaptation to name a few.
And campaigns like the Life Oroklini project for the restoration and protection of the Oroklini Lake, which as Kaspali explained is the first of its kind, keep BirdLife Cyprus on its toes and venturing into ‘new’ causes.
Asking Lilia what one can do in order to assist Birdlife’s activities, she’s quick to address the public’s need to be aware, to report incidents of illegal bird trapping and feel free to approach the association with injured birds or queries.
On her side, Lilia fights on a higher level, along with a team. And in her eyes the battles are clear.
“I’d say that the legislation is there on paper, but enforcement as in the case of illegal bird trapping is a big problem. Probably political will is the biggest challenge we face. And the same goes with habitat destruction; all these plans go ahead even though they affect these areas adversely. And obviously the general attitude of people, that’s a problem too,” concludes Lilia.
Birds have been favourite topic in Cypriot art. In the ancient world of Cyprus, mainly during the 8th- 6th century B.C., the depiction of birds is prevalent in the decoration of vessels. During the Mediaeval period, birds ranked among the most common decorative themes, especially on glazed wares. In more recent years, representations of birds are encountered both in utilitarian and decorative objects, for instance weavings, embroideries, jewels and earthenware.
Samples of art work depicting birds will be displayed amongst photographs of both Anastasios. Leventis himself, an avid photographer of birds and a birdwatcher as well as photos from members of BirdLife Cyprus.
An educational programme related to the exhibition has also been developed by BirdLife Cyprus and the Leventis Museum. “Schools will be coming to the exhibition, showing them the photographs and explaining main concepts to them,” explains Lilia. This will also be combined with interactive games and organised bird watching excursions.
“We’ve grouped the photos, wetland birds, scrubland birds, forest birds, birds of prey, and nocturnal birds, so one can kind of feel the diversity of birds in Cyprus, because there are lots of different habitats”, concludes Lilia.
“From the World of Cyprus Birds”, Leventis Municipal Museum, 15-17 Hippocrates str. , 1500 Nicosia, Cyprus. From October 15 to December 15, open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm. More information on 22 661475 or www.leventismuseum.org.cy
The Cyprus bird
BirdLife Cyprus also brings vultures to the island from Crete to strengthen the population.
“There’s about ten vultures left in the wild in Cyprus”, Lilia explains, “most birds in Cyprus are threatened to some degree mainly by habitat destruction, illegal hunting and trapping.
“The raven is on the brink of extinction, maybe one or two are left. People don’t really see them anymore. We used to have the Imperial eagle in Cyprus which is now extinct.
“Most of the birds in Cyprus are migratory, around 300 of them, and 40 species stay in Cyprus to breed. We have around 50 resident birds, two endemic species that only breed in Cyprus, the Cyprus wheatear and the Cyprus warbler, both small birds and four endemic sub species that are all forest birds, found in Troodos.
More informations about BirdLife Cyprus can be found on