Last year in Cyprus a total of 2.8 million migrating birds were trapped and killed to make a pickled dish called ambelopoulia.
It’s a serious crime and offenders face fines of up to €17,000 and three years in jail if caught, but Agriculture Minister Sophocles Aletaris told an EU delegation concerned about environmental issues that even though “this practice is a disgrace for his country,” it is also deeply rooted in the Cypriot mentality and will be very difficult to eradicate.
A new story in Cyprus Mail outraged local readers. MEP Cristina Guttierrez-Cortines agreed with Aletaris that “old habits are hard to break,” though she insisted that they are very worried about the birds.
In the past, ambelopoulia was a delicacy for poor people, but trapping the birds to supply restaurants that serve this dish has evolved into a money-making racket.
Aletaris told the EU delegation that last year 3,000 people caught trapping songbirds with mist nets and 25 restaurants found to be buying them have been prosecuted, but locals don’t believe enough is being done.
Enforcing the law in Cyprus
One anonymous reader wrote “And what punishment was meted out to these 3025 persons? A tap over the fingers? Just think, the government could have netted (no pun intended) over €50 million if the maximum fine were imposed – and others would be discouraged from doing the same.”
Another reader, Pete Adams, claims that the government should do more to enforce the law, “As far as enforcement goes,” he says, “was there not an incident recently where staff from the agriculture ministry or European commission were attacked by these poachers? If they ever got to court what happened? There’s absolutely no point having a maximum penalty unless it’s put use occasionally and that must include the forfeiture of all goods and establishments selling these animals.”
Incentive to catch the bad guys
BirdLife Cyprus has been monitoring the annual slaughter of songbirds and found that last year’s 2.8 million loss was the largest in five years. While many locals fear that corrupt government officials and police are enabling poachers, Alexey Golovanov takes a more forgiving view.
“I do not believe that police and game wardens are all corrupt,” wrote the Managing Director & CEO at Arts, Arms & Antiques. “In many cases they are overworked and grossly underpaid. They should be entitled to a bonus (from the fine – that’s international practice) – as an incentive.”
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