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Cyprus is an applicant for membership of the European Union. Although laws for protection of birds exist, these do not yet meet the full requirements of the EU Bird Directive, and are anyway poorly implemented. Trapping and illegal hunting of rare and protected species, particularly migrants, is wide spread and tolerated in the name of tradition. This tradition is a mask for a very lucrative black market with a turnover of tens of millions of dollars; and of course the sport, which the hunters like to term their cruel and often protracted torture and killing of small birds. Cyprus, as most other countries on the Mediterranean littoral, would like to be exempted from certain aspects of the EU bird directive. Other present members of the EU would welcome this as a lever to force through drastic changes to the directive, thereby removing the minimal protection that hard-pressed European bird species now enjoy. We must continue to close ranks as effectively and efficiently as the hunters.


We must support efforts to put a stop to these illegal, cruel and barbaric practices on Europes doorstep; and prevent any attempts, direct or indirect, to water down the EU Bird Directive.


For at least the last 2 millennia, people living around the shores of the Mediterranean supplemented their diet by catching and eating small birds. These were a valuable source of protein and provided a welcome variety of sustenance; particularly with the decline of larger game as a meat source and with no significant international trade in foodstuffs until the eighteenth century. A veritable bi-annual manna from heaven. In the most favoured areas, families or villages organised cooperative hunts and sold the excess at the local market.

Killing or trapping the birds, until the age of firearms, was done by means of traps, lures and simple weapons. Lime-sticks, decoy birds and bows and arrows or slings. Until the latter half of the 20th century only the latter means were improved as shotguns became freely available.

The massacre of small birds on Cyprus, up to 20 million annually, can no longer be justified on the grounds of diet insufficiency. Indeed the 'ambellopoulia' is nowadays a prized delicacy, and a dish of 12 pickled or grilled birds in a restaurant costs $27 or 24,50 Euro per person. Big business with a large turnover. The lime-sticks are still used as they were in biblical times. They are cost efficient! Especially when combined with specially planted, watered and tended acacia groves in areas where the largest falls of migrants are expected; or in large private walled gardens shielded from the prying eyes of the law or conservationists.

The situation in the Turkish occupied and controlled northern part of the island is almost certainly considerably worse; but the complex and long-lasting political situation on the island is well outside the scope of this campaign.

David Conlin
November 2001

Copyright Proact 2001