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Cyprus: The Long Night Raid:

CABS dismantles 274 nets in 10 hours within the British Base

CABS activists with 274 dismantled netsCABS activists with 274 dismantled netsThe Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has today revealed the massive scale of bird trapping in the UK-governed Sovereign Base Area (SBA) in Cyprus. More than ten kilometers of illegal nets were detected in just two nights and 274 nets were removed.

CABS carried out a two-day anti-poaching operation under the name ‘The Long Night Raid’, deploying a number of volunteers to investigate trapping activity in the whole territory of the SBA. Although a relatively small area, the amount of trapping sites and mist nets found was astonishing, disclosing once again the professional and massive extent of illegal bird trapping. During ten hours of field work CABS/SPA activists located more than 500 mist nets at 114 trapping sites and were able to remove as many as 274 nets. The combined length of all mist nets detected during the operation is more than ten kilometers.

This once again reveals that the Sovereign Base Areas are probably the deadliest place for birds in the whole of Europe. More importantly, it also demonstrates the fact that the responsible authorities (UK-governed SBA police) are unwilling or even unable to handle the issue, despite assurances made two months ago.

Song Thrush caught in net in the Biritsh BaseSong Thrush caught in net in the Biritsh BaseAlex Heyd, General Director of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter said: "The situation in the SBA is now worse than ever. Every time we monitor trapping in the Base the same well known trapping sites are active, with tape lures – recorded bird calls to attract others to the site - that are detectable from miles away. The same number of nets, if not more, are always found. If you consider that trapping sites are often only 50 yards away from each other and nets can be seen from roads and even the highway, the only possible conclusion is that the enforcement efforts of the SBA police to tackle this issue is unsatisfactory, to say the least."

Even though the SBA Police has an 11-member unit dedicated to combat trapping crime, they have caught and fined only 62 poachers for illegal bird trapping in the last two years, on average one every six days. Compared to CABS/SPA findings, estimating some 150 trapping sites being active every day during the trapping seasons (autumn and winter), one can easily make the assumption that the SBA Police only scratches the tip of the iceberg. Even with moderate estimations, conservationists estimate that almost one million migratory and resident birds are being trapped and killed each year in the UK governed bases alone. In a few hours the activists managed to save 420 birds from the nets, mainly Song Thrushes and Redwings, but also Blackbirds, Blackcaps, House Sparrows, Black Redstarts, Stone Curlew, Corn Buntings and Long-eared Owls.

“CABS/SPA is more than willing to logistically and strategically assist the SBA Administration in tackling bird trapping, but every year we are left wondering whether the SBA Police is really willing to tackle bird crime in their jurisdiction" concludes Mr Heyd.