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CABS Cyprus Bird Protection Camp Autumn 2011

Online operational diary from 24 September 2011

Common Redstart - Germany’s Bird of the Year 2011 - on a limestick on CyprusCommon Redstart - Germany’s Bird of the Year 2011 - on a limestick on CyprusSome 10 members of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) from Germany and Italy, together with our colleagues from the Foundation Pro Biodiversity, will locate and remove limesticks and nets in the Republic of Cyprus in cooperation with the authorities. Illegal song bird trapping to supply restaurants in the Greek-speaking part of the Mediterranean island, a member of the EU since 2004, is an increasingly serious problem. The trade in the protected bird species is flourishing as never before. This time, following the publication of our Final Spring Report that sharply criticised their work, the police have promised better cooperation than in previous years. Cooperation by the police and the Game Fund, after a slow start, appears to be functioning considerably better than in previous years.

The camp is being conducted jointly with our partner organisation "Friends of the Earth Cyprus" and funded to a great extent by the Foundation Pro Biodiversity

Results to date:

  • Limesticks collected: 4,014
  • Mist nets collected: 21
  • Electronic bird lures collected: 23
  • Poachers charged: 1

Figures as at: 02.10.2011

02.10.2011, Sunday

In the middle of the night - shortly before leaving for the airport - a team checking a well-known trapping site west of Agia Napa found 130 li9mesticks and an electronic caller, all of which were dismantled. In the course of the morning all CABS members left the island, marking the end of this year’s autumn camp. The over 4,000 limesticks collected set a new and tragic record for our operations on Cyprus. There is still a lot to do on the Mediterranean tourist paradise.

01.10.2011, Saturday

The last day of operations on Cyprus was also eventful. In the morning all participants formed one large group close to Agia Napa and managed to locate and dismantle 350 limesticks. In one location the 10 conservationists were confronted by 8 very irate men who verbally abuse and threatened the CABS members. But there was safety in numbers and the outnumbered poachers did not attack the group. In the afternoon 103 limesticks were dismantled near Protaras.

During the day’s operations 11 birds were freed alive including Blackcaps, Garden Warblers and a Wood Warbler.

30.09.2011, Friday

Today was the first day without a night operation. The camp participants awarded themselves a well-deserved night’s rest.

In the morning two teams were deployed to the east of Paralimni and they located five trapping sites with a total of 345 limesticks. 17 birds were freed. Three of the sites had active electronic callers. Only one could be removed - the other two were secured by the irate owner under the eyes of the CABS team. Once again it was demonstrated that a policeman in plain clothes, who accompanied our patrols in the countryside, has no problem with catching poachers red.-handed.

In the afternoon all teams were deployed to the area of Agios Theodoros to search for traps. They were successful and seized 1 mist net and 130 limesticks. There was a confrontation as a man threatened the team member guarding our vehicles. The man was very aggressive, kicked the vehicle, and ordered the Italian conservationist to leave the area - and Cyprus - immediately. The police were alerted and arrived rapidly on the scene but the assailant had taken to his heels. The officers were friendly and very cooperative.

29.09.2011, Thursday

Another day on Cyprus without serious incident. Three teams were deployed and they collected more than 700 limesticks.

During the night 3 electronic bird lures were found. At one of the locations a team found 130 limesticks - at the very same place where we found and removed a caller and 160 limesticks in the night from 27 to 28 September. The poacher had set everything out again in only 24 hours.

During the day 609 limesticks, 3 large mist nets and a further 5 electronic callers were found. All traps and callers were removed and destroyed. Seven birds were freed - 4 Blackcaps and 3 Wood Warblers. Although there were a number of encounters in the countryside between poachers and conservationists in the course of the day there were only a few verbal exchanges but no serious threats.

28.09.2011, Wednesday

Another eventful day and night on Cyprus for the CABS teams. In the past 24 hours they rendered 1,017 traps harmless - a new record!

During the night a team patrolled near Sotira. Hundreds of electronic lures are calling all over the island - like a spring concert in the woods. Four devices were found in our area and destroyed., 153 limesticks were collected and seven birds freed: 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Red-backed Shrike, 3 Lesser Whitethroats and two Sedge Warblers.

Dawn brought even more work for the conservationists. One of the teams located three trapping sites with a total of 216 limesticks and a electronic lure calling by day. All were removed. 17 birds were plucked from the sticky traps - Blackcaps, Lesser Whitethroats, Willow warblers and Thrush Nightingales.

Another team operated in the Paralimni area and was particularly successful. They not only collected 603 limesticks but, with the help of uniformed local police, CID officers and the Game Fund effected the arrest of a poacher - the first to be caught during the camp. The man had strung out a huge net and had an active caller next to it that was so loud that it lured the German conservationists to the site. The police were alerted and reacted rapidly and were very cooperative - a vast difference to their reaction in previous years.

27.09.2011, Tuesday

The CABS teams had their hands full today. Before dawn, near Paralimni, two teams had located 5 mist nets together with the associated 7 electronic lure devices. All were removed by the CABS members.

The first limesticks were found as day broke, and by 9.00 am 255 of the sticky traps had been located. The action attracted the attention of an irate trapper who ran at the Italian conservationists waving a pitchfork and uttering loud abuse. As he put a stranglehold on one of the team the other members managed to free their unfortunate and shaken colleague. The police, who had been alerted immediately, arrived 80 minutes later. By this time there was neither hide nor hair of the trapper. Nonetheless the police were very helpful and recorded a complaint of actual bodily harm. The officers were provided with video material of the incident.

The afternoon was no less exciting. Two CABS teams located and destroyed a total of 380 limesticks to the south of Paralimni. On this occasion it was the fate of the German team members to attract the unwelcome attention of two trappers. These were so furious - and also stupid - that they< called the police themselves. The latter arrived quickly (compare with the last paragraph!) and explained to the irate trappers that the CABS team had every right to remove the illegal traps. The team proceeded to do just that.

Nine birds were released unharmed including 1 Thrush Nightingale, 1 Willow Warbler, 4 Blackcaps and 3 other song birds.

Our overall impression was that the police were more cooperative than in the past. Is this a sign for the better?

26.09.2011, Monday

In the morning a team of Italian CABS members soon found limesticks near the village of Sotira. After a short while they collected and destroyed a total of 70 limesticks in three orchards. Asd tey continued their patrol several angry and shouting poachers arrived in two 4 x 4s and forced the team to flee for their lives. We will have to check the area again in the next few days.

Most of the rest of the day was spent checking abandoned trapping sites, except for near Protaras where, in a confined area, a site had been prepared for the setting out of over 200 limesticks and two mist nets. All traps had been removed only apart from 5 limesticks which had clearly been overlooked. The location had been active only a few hours earlier - a newly-dead Masked Shrike was sill hanging on one of the limesticks. The team destroyed completely the prepared sites for limesticks and nets.

A further team had a ‘diplomatic’ day to visit the police chiefs of Larnaca and Famagusta districts and the Larnaca office of the Game Fund. All our interlocutors were - as always - very pleasant and polite and - as ever - made no concrete promises of support. The promise by the head of the Famagusta District police to post a plain clothes patrol outside our hotel and a mobile team in our daily operational area was met by bafflement at the local police station. Theay had received no such order from above!

25.09.2011, Sunday

Today all teams were deployed around the notorious trapping hot spot of Paralimni Town. Many of the small, amateur trapping sites were abandoned; but the larger trapping sites were as expected active. In one location there were more than 200 limesticks and altogether the activists removed 396 limesticks and 3 mist nets. Four Blackcaps and a Willow Warbler were freed from the traps.

The conservationists operating at the largest trapping site were surprised by poachers. The trappers withdrew but called for assistance in the form of six brawny thugs who shouted at and threatened the team members, following them first on foot and then in their 4 x 4. A 45 minute chase then ensued. Only a few hundred metres distant unsuspecting tourists were enjoying their holiday on the beach!

The incident was filmed by an American film crew accompanying the CABS team.

24.09.2011, Saturday

During the night an electronic bird lure playing loud Blackcap calls was activated immediately in front of our hotel in Agia Napa. The teams in the hotel could not believe their ears and checked the immediate neighbourhood of the hotel. They removed and destroyed four large mist nets and the electronic device, located only 30 m from their accommodation. During the day th CABS teams were deployed to the west of Agia Napa and seized 4 large mist nets and 90 limesticks. A freshly-caught Garden Warbler was released unharmed from one of the limesticks. There were no incidents of confrontation.

23.09.2011, Friday

The camp participants arrived on Cyprus today - most of them after long delays due to a strike of air traffic controllers in Athens.