By Larry Powell
|The Sardinian warbler (Curruca melanocephala), common to the Mediterranean region. Photo by Andreas Trepte. |
Billions of birds like the Sardinian warbler (above) and the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) have been migrating through the region for a long time. And, each year for many years, poachers on Cyprus have been trapping and killing them illegally. The slaughter is now said to have reached "industrial levels."
Conservationists found 155 different bird species in trappers' nets in 2018. These included 82 listed as "conservation priority species;" Among them, the Cyprus warbler, a protected species which is a "short-distance" migrator but breeds only on the island.
A study just published by The Royal Society takes aim at the devious methods the poachers use. They lure their unsuspecting prey to their deaths by playing recordings of the birds' own songs.
But it has not been widely known just how well that practise works - until now.
The researchers set up an experiment that would emulate the poachers methods.
(In an email, the study's lead author, Dr. Alexander N. G. Kirschel of the University of Cyprus, tells PinP how it was done. "We caught birds in mist nets, banded them and released them.")
What they found confirmed their worst fears.
The lures worked so well, they were able to trap eleven times more of the targeted species with the birdsong recordings than without. Not only that, they attracted a higher number of "bycatch" species which the trappers would presumably not want and just throw away. And these may include species "of conservation concern."
In the words of the study, "Targeting tape lures would be a significant step in the battle against poaching. Our study has serious implications for conservation and will aid conservation practitioners in their fight to protect migrating birds from the annual massacre in Cyprus."