Birds 'trapped and killed' on UK soil in Cyprus

image captionPoachers in Cyprus use various methods to trap large numbers of birds

Birds are being illegally trapped and killed in a British controlled area of Cyprus, conservation charities say.

Some 1.4m songbirds, including robins and warblers, have been killed in Cyprus to be used as ingredients for the Cypriot delicacy ambelopoulia.

Hundreds of thousands of the birds were caught at Dhekelia, which is a UK Sovereign Base Area in the south-east of the island.

BirdLife Cyprus said trapping this autumn was the highest for ten years.

The wildlife group, which is a partner of the RSPB's BirdLife International organisation, also said the trapping was five times higher on the British base than in the Cypriot Republic.

Ambelopoulia is a dish of pickled or boiled songbirds. Although it is illegal, it is still served in some Cypriot restaurants.

BirdLife Cyprus's Martin Hellicar said: "The picture emerging from this autumn is one of a bird-trapping disaster unseen since we began monitoring almost 10 years ago.

"Bird trapping is an illegal indiscriminate practice that threatens many birds of conservation concern, especially migratory ones."

Tim Stowe, the RSPB's international director, said the Britons feeding songbirds in their gardens during the UK's harsh winter will be "horrified at the level of slaughter" taking place in an area of Cyprus under direct British control.

"The fact that more than five times the level of netting activity were recorded on the UK's Sovereign Base Area compared with the Cypriot Republic is a major embarrassment for the Ministry of Defence and the UK government," he said.

"We know that some efforts have been made to clear trapping equipment from the Base Area, but this serious organised criminal activity and annual carnage will only be ended by increasing the level of arrests and convictions."

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