Jonathan Hall, our head of the RSPB's Overseas Territories Unit, shares some welcome news from Cyprus where we have been supporting our colleagues in BirdLife Cyrpus in the tireless campaign to end the scourge of illegal bird killing.
Perhaps unbeknownst to many holidaymakers visiting Cyprus for a dash of winter sun, there are still two parts of this beautiful Mediterranean island which remain British Territory: the Cyprus Sovereign Base Areas (SBAs). Run by the Ministry of Defence, these two areas contain some of the most significant coastal habitats remaining on the island, including one of the very few major unmodified salt lakes remaining in the Eastern Mediterranean, beautiful and rare undeveloped coastal forests and key migratory jumping-off points.
Part of the undeveloped coastline Picture Guy Shorrock
The very positive news to share is that the SBA Administration has now designated a suite of 5 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protect these key habitats, equivalent protections to those available under the EU Nature Directives. Happily, the identification and protection of these important and sensitive habitats has been done before the full implementation of an upcoming new non-military development regime, which will enable more civilian development to take place in the SBAs than has previously been the case. One of these new SACs is at Cape Pyla, a coastal stretch of great floristic value which also serves as a major jumping-off point for migratory birds heading south for winter. Cape Pyla has long been plagued with the scourge of industrial-scale illegal bird-killing, with serious organised criminals killing hundreds of thousands of songbirds there every autumn. Such levels of slaughter have been made possible by local criminals planting and irrigating avenues of invasive acacia trees on this military firing range, between which they hang mist-nets and play lures in order to capture huge number of species.
Net ride in deliberately planted acacia - picture Guy Shorrock
Blackcap caught in net - birds like this are caught and killed in huge numbers. Picture Guy Shorrock
This new SAC will now have to be managed to address invasive species such as acacia, and the further welcome news is that 15 acres of acacia were ripped up and destroyed in December. Significant areas of acacia avenue remain, but this is another step in the right direction to protect this rare habitat and reduce the embarrassment of industrial-scale bird-killing on British Territory.
Clearing acacia scrub is a welcome and necessary step towards ending the killing of migrant birds. Picture Guy Shorrock
Excellent and long awaited news. The killing of migratory birds in Cyprus and Malta has been one reason I would never visit the countries,it's hard to believe it has gone on for so long, just imagine how many birds have been lost. Very well done to Birdlife Cyprus for continuing the uphill struggle.
Well done Jonathan and your team for this achievement. I can only imagine the amount of lobbying that has been required to achieve these SAC designations. My own lobbying of the SBA has fallen on stony ground!! However the monitoring and enforcement of these SAC's is going to be difficult and will require the full commitment of the local and SBA police. The head of the SBA Police explains some the real difficulties and threats his men are exposed to in a fine article in Nature - www.nature.com/.../slaughter-of-the-song-birds-1.19222. I am also impressed with the very pro-active works conducted by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter as described in their blog - www.facebook.com/CABS2011. It takes guts to get out in the field to confront these hunters and trappers.
Sorry about the late comment on your blog - I only found it today.
A small step maybe but nevertheless very welcome news.
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