An estimated 121,000 songbirds, such as Blackcaps and European Robins, are estimated to have been illegally killed on a British military base in Cyprus during autumn 2018, according to a new report by BirdLife Cyprus and the RSPB.
While this figure is still extremely high, it represents a 10-year low and is well down from 260,000 in 2017 and 880,000 in 2016.
The success in the reduction of illegal trapping on the base is believed to be primarily due to the impact of covert surveillance work undertaken by the RSPB and BirdLife Cyprus with the Sovereign Base Area (SBA) Administration. Since the work started in 2016, some 21 trappers have been caught on camera and prosecuted, with courts imposing three-year suspended jail sentences and fines as high as € 6,000. More individuals caught in 2018 are due to appear in court later this year. The Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) has also continued to provide crucial support in identifying trapping sites as highlighted by TV Presenter and campaigner Chris Packham during the last three autumns.
Along with increased enforcement and heavier sentences, the SBA authorities are also using a range of civil and criminal sanctions against the trappers, meaning they now face a double deterrent.
Songbirds are illegally trapped and killed to provide restaurants with the main ingredient for the local and expensive delicacy of ambelopoulia – a plate of cooked songbirds. Organised criminal gangs are driving this illegal activity on a huge scale and it is estimated they earn hundreds of thousands of euros every year from the songbirds they kill on British territory.