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The Editor

Dear Sir,

A tall story. Hundreds of metres of illegal mist nets and limed sticks with thousands of dead and dying birds are set up, with common knowledge, on military training areas in Britain. The local constabulary have no jurisdiction over the local trappers who are making millions of untaxed pounds sterling with trade in the dead birds. The MOD police carry out a raid from time to time; but strangely the locals almost always get a tip off beforehand. Confiscated nets and traps are re-erected the next day and the none-too-heavy fines are put down to business expenses. A tall story in Britain maybe; but not on the British Sovereign Base Areas of Cyprus!

Every year up to 20 million birds are shot or trapped on the island; most suffer a lingering death. Among them are many small songbirds which weeks earlier had either hatched in a British copse or garden, or had perhaps raised their broods on our islands and in other countries in Northern Europe. "Four-and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie" (or in fact pickled or grilled as 'Ambellopoulia') is more than a nursery fable on Cyprus. Hundreds of thousands will be sold illegally in Cypriot restaurants for $2.50 apiece. The Cyprus authorities, with the exception of the hard-worked rangers of the Game Fund, do little to combat this criminal activity. Indeed the well-heeled classes to which most civil servants and politicians belong, are themselves 'fig eaters' as they are euphemistically named. A sad story - but it gets even closer to home.

For more than 20 years since signing the Berne Convention for the protection of wildlife the British Government has largely ignored what is happening within areas subject to their full jurisdiction. Indeed it has grudgingly accepted the application of the Convention only this year. The Cyprus Republic became a signatory in 1981. The Ministry of Defence in Britain has made exemplary advances in nature conservation on its training areas at home, why can't they apply this to Cyprus? Or, is "this corner of a foreign field" only "England" when it suits our needs? Privilege without responsibility.

It is time that Britain accepted her responsibilities. First, our bases must be freed completely from this criminal and barbaric activity and be kept free from such activities in future. Our officials must earn their pay and cooperate less grudgingly with the Cyprus authorities. Second, as one of the pillars of the European Union and a good friend of Cyprus, we should urge them to put their environmental household in order before becoming a full member of the club.

Yours faithfully

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