Showing posts with label poaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label poaching. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Massacre on Cyprus. Researchers call for a crack down on poachers who lure millions of birds to their deaths on the Mediterranean island with recordings of their own songs.

 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."

A dish of ambelopoulia. Photo by George M. Groutas.

It's all part of a controversial, yet lucrative practise of satisfying the appetites of many Cypriots for ambelopoulia (above). It's a "traditional" food dish considered a delicacy there. It's made up of songbirds that may be grilled, fried, pickled or broiled. And it's still being served illegally, not just in private homes, but in some restaurants on the island, as well.

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."

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