The Sovereign Base Police have sent out a strong warning to bird trappers as the season for this highly illegal activity enters its peak.
During this period, which runs between the end of August and October, bird trappers set mistnets in the hope of catching migrating Ampelopoulia (Black Caps) before moving them on to restaurants who sell them illegally as a delicacy.
Chief Inspector Mustafa Kemal, who oversees the 12-strong strong Crime Action Team (CAT) dedicated to combating the illegal activity, said the police were committing more resources to the problem than ever before.
Last season, CAT had eight members on the team, but that has now been bolstered to include an inspector, two sergeants and nine police constables, as authorities look to strike a blow against bird trappers.
And in a warning to those intent on committing this crime, Chief Inspector Kemal explained: “We have made no secret that combating bird trapping is one of our top divisional priorities, and once again this year, we will be working around the clock to catch anybody attempting to carry-out this highly illegal activity.”
And those caught will now face even tougher penalties according to the chief inspector.
He continued: “This year, the fines will be going up and cash bail will also follow the same pattern and trappers can expect to pay up to €1,500 on cash bail when they are arrested.
“We will also be able to seize cars if people are caught with them at the scene, so we are going to hit them hard once again this season and we are hopeful that it will make these criminals think twice about breaking this law.”
This warning comes hot on the heels of the successful clearance of illegal irrigation pipes and equipment on Cape Pyla in July, which is used to water the acacia to provide cover for the mistnets.
During the clearance, 1,500 metres of piping over 11 acres of land was removed from the area in a serious blow to the bird trappers.
“We will not tolerate this abhorrent criminal activity and, where we can, we will take action to prevent it from happening,” Bases spokesman Sean Tully had commented at the time.
Last year, SBA Police officers had made record numbers of arrests, equipment seizures and fines, with more than 1,000 mistnets removed from trapping sites and thousands of Ampelopoulia released back into the wild.
“As we approach the new migration season, our dedicated anti-bird hunting team will be on the ground, working tirelessly to deter and catch those who choose to break the law,” SBA Police Chief Constable, Chris Eyre said.
And in pointing to the challenge ahead, Chief Inspector Kemal continued: “Bird crime is a huge challenge and it is one we will not shy away from.
“We recognise that there is a problem not just in the SBAs, but across the whole of Cyprus, and we are doing everything within our power to bring those committing this crime to justice.
“We need to see change in the attitudes towards bird trapping and the SBA Police will be using everything within its legal authority to do just that.”