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Govt To Intensify Campaign Against Wild Bird Trapping

The government is to intensify its action against illegal wild bird trapping through public awareness campaigns and more police operations against poachers, said Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis at the opening of the Council of Europe's conference in Larnaca.

The conference comes in the wake of an exposé by German conservationists, who were violently attacked by a poacher whilst on a research trip on the island in April this year. The resulting coverage in European countries put the island in a very poor light and there were reports of a number of German tourists cancelling their holiday trips.

Wild bird trapping on the rise

Conservationists say that the trapping of migratory and endangered species of birds for food is rising, despite being illegal.

BirdLife Cyprus said that in spring 2011 there was an increase of 72 percent in trapping levels using mist nets compared to spring 2009. And the bird death toll has reached staggering levels for spring 2011, estimated at over 490,000 birds across Cyprus, said the organisation.

The source of the problem is that it is profitable in Cyprus, said Silikiotis. Many restaurants sell the birds for food at incredibly high prices, 70 euros per kilo in some cases. The only way to fight this is to change the way society thinks about the issue.

"We have the political will to move in the right direction...to stamp out any form of illegality and fulfill our obligations under the Berne Convention," said Silikiotis.

Other threats to bird species in Cyprus include urbanisation, with the vultures and larks declining in numbers because of changes in land use. Silikiotis said that Cyprus has designated 29 sites as special protection areas for wild birds.

But as conservationists point out, these protected areas are ironically the ideal poaching grounds, and nets and limesticks used to trap birds are regularly set out in them by poachers, who face little action from police - unless demanded by activists.

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter has launched a petition in Greek and English to lobby against poaching in Cyprus, to read the petition, click here.

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