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British Bases make progress against killing of songbirds

There has been a 72% reduction in illegal killings of songbirds in the British Base of Dhekelia in the last year, progress which Britain’s armed forces minister Mark Lancaster has hailed as a success, the Guardian reported on Thursday.

Lancaster, who was in Cyprus last week, visited Cape Pyla in the British sovereign base of Dhekelia to see for himself the confiscated equipment trappers use.

Bird Life Cyprus describes Cape Pyla as a bird killing hot spot because of invasive acacia planted for trapping purposes.

“Today we are here to mark a success story,” Lancaster told the Guardian. “I was getting a huge number of letters expressing concern and it is very nice to be able to report back that there has been such a reduction.”

And he pledged that the effort will continue.  “It’s very encouraging that we have had success but we are not going to be complacent. We will continue.”

No other place in Cyprus is targeted as much by poachers as the British base area. From August to October, base authorities are engaged in campaign that has become increasingly high-tech, the Guardian said.

In the last year, thermal-imaging drones, night-vision goggles and hidden cameras have been deployed by police on the base, who are also equipped with stun guns.

Ambushes are common, with officers reporting fights, and worse, when they encounter trappers. Several have been injured.

“We’ve had shotguns fired at our feet, rottweilers let loose on us, vehicles that have tried to run us over, all because we have taken a more robust approach,” Sgt Andy Adamou, who was honoured during Lancaster’s visit for the courage he had shown during one especially tense showdown, told the Guardian. “They see us as a threat to their livelihoods. And as long as there is demand, there will be the need for supply.”

Earlier this year, Bird Life Cyprus said a striking reduction in bird trapping was achieved in Cyprus in autumn 2017, thanks to effective enforcement, combined with newly deterrent sentencing and operations targeting trapping areas.

But it stressed that action must continue, saying that more and continued action was called for to ensure this positive step is turned into a permanent end to large-scale trapping.

Despite the fall in mist netting in the main autumn killing season, it is still estimated that up to 610,000 birds could have been killed across Cyprus in autumn 2017, it added.

Photo credit Bird Life Cyprus

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