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A successful end to CABS spring camp on Cyprus

4,439 limesticks collected - 14 poachers arrested

Barred Warbler on a limestickBarred Warbler on a limestick

The Committee Against Bird Slaughter large scale spring 2012 camp came to a successful conclusion on 7 May. This spring’s operations have broken several records and the camp was the most successful ever held by a conservation organisation on the Mediterranean island. The three week operation was our longest bird protection camp to date on Cyprus. A total of 24 nature and bird lovers from Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, Italy and the UK took part and located and dismantled a record number of traps. These totalled 4,439 limesticks, 15 mist nets and 9 electronic decoy devices (Spring 2011 for comparison: 3,353/15/12). Some 242 birds were found on limesticks and in nets, of which 184 could be released unharmed. The remainder were already dead. Almost half of the trapped birds were Blackcaps (122/50.6 %) with in addition 31 Lesser Whitethroats, 11 Nightingales as well as Ruppell's, Spectacled and Barred Warblers, Wrynecks, Barn Swallows and many other species. Illegally kept birds of protected species were found in aviaries and cages in six cases - a total of 113 birds were freed into the wild. Most of these were warblers but they included six Ortolan Buntings and a Common Kestrel. Another sad record.

CABS team member with limesticksCABS team member with limesticksThe big difference between this year’s spring camp and previous operations was the successful cooperation with the police. 14 poachers were caught red-handed (last year only one). Whereas last spring we mostly called in vein for support from the Republic of Cyprus police, this year we had an officer from the specialist Anti-Poaching Squad (APS) accompanying us on our search for limesticks and nets almost every single day of the three week operation. This also served to guarantee our security and together with the APS nine poachers were apprehended. Acting on our information Game Fund officers managed to catch a further three poachers, and the local police, in cooperation with our teams, another two offenders. On several joint patrols with the British SBA police no active trapping sites were discovered this spring. Cooperation with all four law enforcement units was very gratifying and effective.

Dismantling a mist netDismantling a mist netAs only one of the two deployed teams was accompanied by an APS officer, the second group was allocated a retired SBA police officer, employed privately by us for security and liaison duties, who established close contact with the local Republic of Cyprus police stations. In the final week one of our volunteers was a British wildlife crime office from the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary, whose professional manner and performance was decisive in defusing several critical situations. His experiences (and bird list) are vividly described in his Wildlife Crime Blog Despite the greatly improved level of security there was one serious incident in which a German team member was surprised by a poacher while dismantling limesticks and was badly beaten up. Later in hospital he had to have several stitches to a wound on his head. In addition to shouted abuse and threats there were a few ‘exciting’ car chases.

The Pro Biodiversity Foundation (SPA) supported the operation with both generous financial aid and with a small team of SPA personnel. Our partner on the island Friends of the Earth (FoE) Cyprus provided logistic support for the camp and we had a brisk exchange of information and mutual support from the Swiss organisation MBCC. Our special thanks go to the German Embassy, Nicosia, whose intervention with the Republic of Cyprus police HQ was mainly responsible for the close and comprehensive support provided by the police.

A final report will be published here within the next two weeks.