Prince Charles wrote a letter to Major-General Richard Cripwell, senior Commander of British Forces in Cyprus, and sent a duplicate copy to President Nicos Anastasiades, demanding them to take immediate action to halt the barbaric slaughter of half a million migrating songbirds at a British Army base, in Cyprus. Prince Charles says that the bird haul includes “many species which are much-loved by the British public, such as robins, song thrushes and barn owls.”
The Prince begins by saying in his letter that “I am writing with regard to the industrial-scale killing of songbirds which is currently occurring on the Cyprus Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia. In particular, to ask you to have the infrastructure which permits this illegal slaughter (planted avenues of invasive acacia) to be removed from the MoD-administered land there by the start of the autumn migration period in September. This would not only at a stroke save hundreds of thousands of birds being killed illegally on British soil, but would also prevent significant profits from flowing into the pockets of the serious organized criminals who control this barbaric practice.”
Conservationists say bird trapping has changed in the past twenty years from a small-scale activity intended to put food on the family table, into a major criminal enterprise. Although the trapping was made illegal in 1974, it has managed to become a very lucrative and sophisticated business. Martin Hellicar, Cyprus representative of Birdlife International, said that “[a]n Army training ground has been turned over to wildlife crime.” The location these illicit activities are taking place is on the British Sovereign Base Area (SBA) of Dhekelia, on Cyprus’s southern coast. The base is used to train British soldiers on firing ranges before serving in Afghanistan.
The way the birds are trapped is extremely barbaric and inhumane. At night, trappers set-up fine-mesh “mist” nets and cover branches with glue. In the morning they find the terrified birds caught in the snares, and usually still alive. The trappers rip them from the mesh, or off the glue-covered branches often leaving the entangled feet behind. If the birds are still breathing, they proceed to kill them with a cocktail stick, or slit their throats with a penknife. Most of the trapping takes place during the spring and autumn migration seasons.
RSPB spokesman Grahame Madge welcomed the Prince’s intervention by saying that “[i]t’s a staggering level of slaughter and we hope that it will provide a catalyst for change.”
This illicit trade reaps profits worth £12 million a year. The birds are primarily sold to Greek restaurants to be used in a dish known as Ambelopoulia. Apparently, the Cypriots believe the dish to be a natural form of “Viagra.” SBA police Divisional Commander James Guy, a sixty year-old ex-Strathclyde officer, pointed out that restaurants in Cyprus are rarely prosecuted for serving bird dishes. “There are politicians who appear to have a very sympathetic attitude towards trappers,” he said.
One Cypriot political figure made light of the controversy, saying: “The birds are a delicacy. Catching them is traditional and you are hypocritical. It wasn’t long ago when English aristocrats used to hunt and kill foxes, and you can’t even eat them.”
Unfortunately, although fox hunting was for a short time banned in England, Prince Charles’s favourite sport is no longer outlawed. While the Prince is waiting for the Cyprus government to put a halt to the barbaric trade of slaughtering songbirds, he is passing his time killing innocent foxes all in the name of sport, and entertainment. He may have some difficulty making an impression and be taken seriously by anyone in Cyprus, or anywhere else for that matter.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock