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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"Ambelopoulia" - Songbirds as a delicacy

Plucked warblers, found in a restaurant near Paralimni
Plucked warblers, found in a restaurant near Paralimni

There is no other country in the European Union where bird-trapping is as booming as in Cyprus. While bird conservationists and authorities have managed to control poaching elsewhere, it is difficult to control in the Greek-speaking part of the Mediterranean island. High profit margins and a low risk of prosecution make bird-trapping a highly lucrative source of income for many poachers.

Not just fine diners swear by "Ambelopoulia" - the traditional song bird meze dish in Cyprus. A significant part of the population love the tiny bites. Hundreds of thousands of Cypriots at least occasionally - e.g. on festivities and holidays - indulge in the dish, with three or four warblers as the highlight on the table after vegetables and seafood. And they are ready to spend more than 40 euros on the meagre meal! The trappers themselves receive around 4 euros per bird.

Preserved songbirds - bought in a supermarket near Larnaka
Preserved songbirds - bought in a supermarket near Larnaka

On good days, a bird trapper can catch an average of 100 or more birds - so it's no wonder that the landscape is littered with limesticks and nets, on which electronic decoy callers play songs and lure migratory birds to their deaths. The police often refer to ambelopoulia as the "caviar of the 21st century" because of the profit margins and are also wary of the professional poacher gangs. They do not shy away from violence when they see their lucrative business being endangered. This is also something our CABS members have also experienced, where they have been assaulted more than once during our bird protection camps.

Unexpected increased demand comes from tourism: Russian tourists in particular have recently discovered "Ambelopoulia" and are increasingly found at the end of the supply chains. Committee members disguised as tourists have inspected numerous restaurants and have often made a frightening discovery. Dozens of restaurants have already been reported.

Due to CABS actions the number of restaurants in which the songbirds are brazenly offered on the menu is decreasing. Although the trade is being driven underground, locals know where to go to be served warblers.