Operation Image serves tough justice for Cyprus bird crime.
Covert cameras have proved an essential tool in providing evidence of illegal bird trapping in Cyprus and bringing the culprits to justice. In one case, this has enabled the successful prosecution of criminals that local police officers have been trying to catch for over 10 years.
Guy Shorrock, RSPB Senior Investigations Officer, reports: “During 2016, 19 men were caught on camera at seven locations within the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA) in south-east Cyprus. All, eventually, pleaded guilty. The final five from Operation Image were sentenced in February and the two main culprits received 20 months’ imprisonment, suspended for three years, and €6,600 fine respectively. The remaining three trappers received substantial fines of between €800 and €1,700.”
The men also received an exclusion order preventing them from entering parts of the ESBA for 12 months. Guy adds: “This is a new initiative and a good example of the work being done by the SBA authorities to bring more pressure on the trapping community.”
The fight continues
With long-term involvement by the RSPB, BirdLife Cyprus and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), the fight against illegal trapping in Cyprus continues. “Catching trappers in autumn 2017 was rather more challenging,” says Guy. “But two men have already pleaded guilty and been fined a total of €1,800, and another significant case is yet to come to court.”
While the SBA authorities are committed to improving enforcement work, the long-term goal is the removal of non-native acacia in the ESBA. These areas are planted by the trappers to allow them to place nets.
“Removal of these acacia plots began in 2014, but ground to a halt in 2016 following large-scale protests from the trapping community,” reveals Guy. “Completion of this work is badly needed to secure a permanent reduction in trapping levels. The RSPB has recently undertaken an assessment of how many non-native acacias still exist and have made a number of recommendations to the SBA authorities.”