A number of constituents have been in touch with me recently with concerns over the illegal trapping of migrating birds on Ministry of Defence (MOD) sites in Cyprus.
As noted by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), around 800,000 songbirds are trapped and killed in the UK Sovereign Base Area (SBA) of Dhekelia every autumn - many of which are from rare and declining species. I agree this is an alarming issue.
A petition in spring 2017 calling on the MOD to stop this illegal slaughter received over 24,000 signatures. Responding to the petition, the Government stated that the SBA authorities were taking a number of actions to tackle bird trapping in the area, including pursuing over 80 convictions for poaching offences, and conducting major operations to clear the netting used by trappers. These operations have led to the seizure of over 1,000 mist-nets and more than 450 limesticks – twigs coated with glue to trap birds – as well as other trapping equipment.
The Government further stated that despite hostility from elements in the local community, the SBA authorities will continue with efforts to remove the invasive acacia bushes that trappers on the island have used to attract and catch birds. I note, for example, that in recent months, operations from the SBA have successfully destroyed over 3 kilometres of irrigation equipment used to grow acacia in the SBA.
Nevertheless, I appreciate the calls that the RSPB and others have made for the UK Government to meet its responsibilities on UK territory and stop the illegal slaughter of wild birds.