Catching birds with nets in Cyprus
While the poachers in Cyprus refer to bird trapping with limesticks as a tradition, they simply cannot say the same with nets: The industrially produced trapping nets, which are widely found on the island today, did not appear until the 1970s.
Hardly any other trapping method makes it so clear why bird-trapping is prohibited: Nets catch indiscriminately catch everything that flies into them. They are practically invisible in front of a dark background, block the flight path and give the birds absolutely no chance. Once trapped, they become entangled in attempts to free themselves. In the end they die after a long struggle from overheating in the sun, from exhaustion, strangle themselves with the wafer-thin nylon threads or - finally - are killed by the bird trappers.
As an important geographical stepping stone, more songbird species rest in Cyprus during the migration period than anywhere else in Europe. Anyone setting up nets in Cyprus is not only catching blackcaps, which are a coveted delicacy as "Ambelopoulia". Everything that flies over the eastern flyway ends in the nets: Warblers, leaf warblers, flycatchers, redstarts and shrikes as well as cuckoos, bee-eaters and birds of prey.
There are three trapping seasons: In spring and autumn the migrating songbirds are pursued, in the winter months it's the thrushes wintering on the island.
Net trapping sites be found everywhere in Cyprus: In gardens, fruit and olive plantations, bushes and forests. Professional gangs even redesign the entire landscape specifically just for bird-trapping: They plant whole groves with acacias imported from Australia, which are cultivated with illegal irrigation systems in the barren soil. Here, dozens of nets with hundreds of square metres are set up in long corridors. The aisles are lined with carpets or old conveyor belts so that the nets are not contaminated with the acacia leaves and flowers lying on the ground during construction and dismantling. Car tyres filled with concrete, to which heavy iron pipes are mounted, are used as net poles. Electronic systems with several loudspeakers, which are distributed on long cables in the landscape, play the songs of blackcaps at night and lure the migratory birds into the nets. This large-scale bird trapping is particularly pronounced in the British Military area at Cape Plya.
During our bird protection camps on Cyprus we routinely find up to 200 nets each year. The illegal trapping equipment is reported to the authorities so that the perpetrators can be caught in the act or the kit is dismantled by our teams. As a result of our operations, the use of nets is now declining in some areas, particularly in the British military areas.