Trapping migratory birds on rise in Cyprus-group

Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:15am EDT
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By Michele Kambas

PYLA RANGE, Cyprus (Reuters Life!) - A single talon ripped out of a bird is testament to an annual bloodbath in Cyprus, where songbirds are caught in their thousands to end up as expensive delicacies in the island's taverns.

Wildlife groups estimate as many as a million migratory birds are killed as they fly over Cyprus each year, ending up fried or pickled in a centuries-old practice which was once considered necessary sustenance, but is now gourmet fare.

The talon was picked out of a net, left on a bush by trappers who had cleared out an area just before a police raid at dawn to seize trapping devices dotted along Cyprus's coast.

It is considerably larger than those of minute birds preyed upon and which go by the generic term "ambelopoulia."

"About one million birds are killed a year. It's an unacceptable toll," said Martin Hellicar, Campaign Manager for BirdLife Cyprus, a unit of BirdLife International.

Bird trapping has been widespread in Cyprus since Medieval times at least, reaching its peak in the 1990s when up to 10 million birds were slaughtered a year.

While conservation groups say it has waned with tougher police action, they say there has been a new spike in trapping activity over the past three years.

Trappers use fine mist nets and sticks dipped in a natural glue substance. Both methods are strictly banned by international conventions because of their indiscriminate nature, but the practice continues unabated.   Continued...