Komitee gegen den Vogelmord e.V. Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

Komitee gegen den Vogelmord e. V.
Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS)

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Bird trapping in the British military area (SBA)

Netting in the acacia groves at Cape Pyla
Netting in the acacia groves at Cape Pyla

East of Larnaca lies the British military area of Dhekelia. The 130 square kilometre area is part of the Sovereign Base Area (SBA), together with an area further west. It covers the Cape Pyla and reaches north to the buffer zone secured by UN blue helmets and to the Turkish north of the Mediterranean island. The uninhabited military area is not part of the Republic of Cyprus, but British territory.

Great Britain uses the strategic location close to the Middle East for military operations and is unlikely to relinquish the areas anytime soon. As the former colonial power, British diplomats are keen to maintain good neighbourly relations with the local population. With the exception of a few days of practice drills, the area is freely accessible - for farmers as well as for bird trappers.

Poacher gangs from the surrounding towns have recognised that they can take advantage of the reluctance of the British military and they occupy considerable parts of the landscape. Across dozens of hectares, acacia groves have been planted especially for bird-trapping - equipped with huge illegally constructed irrigation systems -  trapping nets are set up in huge aisles. Electronic decoy callers are positioned around each net and cover almost every square metre at Cape Pyla. In the British military area alone, several hundred thousand birds are caught and killed illegally every year.

SBA police dismantle a mist net
SBA police dismantle a mist net

For many years, the SBA police did little to tackle and prevent the bird-trapping. Although there has long been a police unit specialised in poaching, its operations could hardly be described as effective. Especially at the end of each season - when it didn't cause much disruption - raids took place in the trapping sites. The number of arrested poachers could easily be counted on one hand. 

After protests by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB); and after some spectacular CABS actions in which hundreds of nets were collected in a breakneck manner before the eyes of armed poachers, the military police has started to step up. It is said that Prince Charles has personally campaigned for the British police to take more vigorous action against bird poaching.

Since 2017, cooperation with the SBA police has improved considerably. New officers have been deployed, controls are coordinated with our CABS teams, and patrol cars arrive much quicker than in previous years. Since then, the number of active trapping sites has noticeably declined. There is still room for improvement, but a good start has been made.