Thousands Of Robins Killed At Christmas To Make Illegal Cypriot Delicacy

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Hundreds of thousands of robins from the UK are being killed illegally in Cyprus after migrating south for the winter.The birds are a delicacy on the island and are trapped and killed by locals to provide ambelopoulia, pickled or boiled songbirds, for restaurants.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and its partner organisation BirdLife Cyprus, said one of the trapping hotspots was on the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekalia.

The RSPB said it was ‘unacceptable’ that the illegal slaughter of the birds was taking place on an area controlled by the British authorities.During the autumn trapping season, an estimated 700,000 birds were caught on the island. Experts believe the winter figures this year will be even higher.BirdLife Cyprus’s Martin Hellicar said: ‘At this time of year, robins and other birds, such as song thrushes, escape harsh conditions further north in Europe and travel to the island for the winter.

‘Sadly many of these birds will be travelling to their deaths, particularly in the trapping hotbeds of Famagusta, Larnaca and the British Sovereign Base Area of Dhekalia.’Ambelopoulia is illegal but the law is being widely flouted as restaurants ‘openly serve’ it to locals.

Tim Stowe, the RSPB’s international director, said: ‘The illegal killing of songbirds has no place in a modern Europe and this increasing slaughter is placing increasing pressure on bird populations, many of which are already declining for other reasons’We remain concerned that many threatened species are also slain and we are working with BirdLife Cyprus to bring this barbaric practice to an end.’The birds are trapped in nets or caught on ‘traditional’ limesticks, where trappers coat sticks in ‘lime’ – a concoction made from locally-occurring fruits.

The birds become stuck to the sticks until the trapper returns to kill them, usually with a tooth pick to the throat.The legs of the birds are often so stuck to the glue sticks that they need to be pulled off.This autumn was a disastrous season for bird trapping, with net use up by over one third compared to the autumn of 2008, limestick use is also on the rise.

An estimated 700,000 birds were trapped this autumn in the area monitored by BirdLife Cyprus field workers.The organisation believes the total number of birds trapped in Cyprus in autumn may exceed one million birds.Netting levels were particularly high in the Dhekelia British Base (SBA) area, notably on the Pyla Range, a British Army exercise area.

Mr Stowe added: ‘For such a trapping free-for-all to be going on in an area supposedly controlled by the British authorities is unbelievable and unacceptable.’The combined SBA Police and British-army sweep operation in this area in October was a welcome first step in tackling what is effectively industrial level trapping on the range, but this decisive action needs to be repeated till this persistent problem is dealt with once and for all.’

(source)

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