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‘Ludicrous’ fines encourage limestick bird traps

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Fan-tailed warbler trapped on limestick - BirdLife Cyprus

Autumn bird trappings with mist nets are the lowest ever recorded, but limestick use is on the rise due to risible fines, said wildlife conservation NGO Birdlife Cyprus on Thursday.

BirdLife Cyprus has been monitoring illegal bird trapping for almost two decades.

Data analysis from its field survey carried out in autumn 2020 shows a 94% decrease in trapping levels with mist nets.

“This is remarkable progress, given the fact that just four years ago, BirdLife Cyprus recorded the highest ever trapping levels within the British Bases,” said a Birdlife statement Thursday.

A decrease in trapping levels in the Republic was also welcomed after increases observed in 2019 and 2018.

“Despite trapping with mist nets being at its lowest levels, autumn 2020 was a season when an increase in limestick use was observed.”

The BirdLife Cyprus field team found increased trapping activity with limesticks, in total numbers found and active trapping sites.

Game and Fauna Service data also show that twice as many limesticks were confiscated in autumn 2020 compared to autumn 2019.

“This increase in limestick use is worrying, and we believe it is linked to the much lower fine of €200 for limestick trapping, which is not a deterrent to trappers.

“Equally worrying is the fact that big, organised trappers continued undisturbed with the mass killing of songbirds last autumn.

“The authorities need to apply effective enforcement action against these trappers to deal with this issue once and for all,” said BirdLife Cyprus’ Campaigns Coordinator Tassos Shialis.

Conservationists argue that low fines for limestick trapping and the recent law amendment that Parliament voted through last December jeopardise a 20-year effort to save migratory birds from being illegally killed in Cyprus.

With this recent law change, the on-the-spot fine for the offence of illegal killing (using limesticks or a shotgun) of up to 50 birds on a list of 14 protected non-game species was reduced from €2000 to €200.

“These 14 songbird species happen to be the target-species of trappers and poachers, also known as ‘ambelopoulia’,” said Shialis.

“We are sure that this law amendment will enable further limestick use and encourage the illegal shooting of non-game species.

“Offenders will essentially be getting nothing more than a slap on the wrist”.

The European Court of Justice ruling concerning France made clear that using limesticks as a traditional hunting method is illegal, slamming the door shut to the tradition.

BirdLife Cyprus has launched an online petition calling on the government and the House of Representatives to restore strict and effective fines – without any exceptions – through a new law amendment.