Dhekelia British bases police on Thursday launched its latest piece of equipment fight illegal bird trappers – a high-tech drone.
A recent study by Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said Cypriot trappers killed 2.3 million birds in autumn 2016, up from 1.4 million in 2010.
Size for size that makes Cyprus the second-most deadly bird destination in the Mediterranean, after Malta.
And most of the industrial killing takes place within British military controlled areas, especially the eastern sovereign base of Dhekelia.
UK authorities said on Thursday it will mainly be deployed by a crime action team dedicated to combating illegal bird trapping due to the crystal clear imagery it can generate from great heights at a top speed of more than 50 miles per hour.
The top-of-range drone has night-vision capabilities and can cover a distance of seven kilometres, will enhance the police’s ability to cover areas which have proved difficult to reach in the past.
Dhekelia garrison Divisional Commander, Chief Superintendent Jon Ward said bases police “are absolutely committed to targeting anybody involved in illegal bird trapping and we will use all legal methods in order to do this”.
He told reporters that police will also be widely-using covert static cameras across the whole of UK bases territory, a method which has proved successful in recent months in leading to the prosecution of bird trappers.
“We have seen some significant sentences handed-down by the courts recently and the use of these techniques…and it will be intelligence-led to target criminals,” said Ward.
“My message to anyone thinking of engaging in illegal activity but more specifically in bird trapping is to be aware that we will be out both day and night to catch you,” he added.
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Trappers can catch thousands of birds a season, selling a dozen for up to €40 to restaurants which serve the dish for nearly twice the price – making it a lucrative business worth an estimated €15 million.
Of the 280 bird species regularly seen in Cyprus, some 200 are migrants, including everything from songbirds to waterfowl and raptors.
Millions use the island as a stopping-off point on their spring migration from Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
In autumn they return, fatter and accompanied by their offspring — a trapper’s dream.
The RSPB in March labelled the Dhekelia base area the “worst bird killing hotspot” in Cyprus.
Britain retains sovereignty over some 99 square kilometres of territory on Cyprus, which was ruled by the British until 1960.