Conservationists appalled at Red-footed Falcon massacre
52 Red-footed Falcon –listed as Near-Threatened by BirdLife- have been found shot at Phasouri in Cyprus, a well-known poaching 'black spot'. The finding has appalled conservationists throughout Europe, and has led to BirdLife Cyprus renewing calls for action on the issue.
On the morning of Friday 5 October, farm workers at the Phasouri citrus plantations found the Red-footed Falcons laying dead or wounded among the orange trees. Two piles of empty shotgun cartridges lay at the centre of the massacre site. Of the 52 falcons recovered, six were wounded and forty-six had died.
Red-footed Falcon is a colonial species that nests and migrates in groups. The species is strictly protected in the EU as it has suffered severe declines in its main, eastern European breeding range in recent decades.
BirdLife Cyprus report that this incident is by no means the first time illegal shooting has resulted in the killing of birds of prey and other migrants, such as Bee-eaters Merops apiaster, at Phasouri on the Akrotiri peninsula of Limassol. "This terrible situation has dragged on for the past few years without the authorities taking appropriate action to stop it,” said Mike Miltiadous, Research Officer of BirdLife Cyprus.
"For years, BirdLife Cyprus has been calling for effective anti-poaching action on the peninsula, which is the most important autumn migration stop-over area on the Island for thousands of birds, and birds of prey in particular,” said BirdLife Cyprus Manager, Martin Hellicar.
“This anti-poaching action has plainly failed to materialise, with the results that illegal shooters have become increasingly bold, making this act one of the worst cases of illegal bird killing ever reported in Europe.”
"...anti-poaching action has plainly failed to materialise..." —Martin A Hellicar, BirdLife Cyprus
The area where Friday’s falcon shooting took place is within the Akrotiri British Sovereign Base Area (SBA), but the main problem on the peninsula in recent years has been the absence of joint anti-poaching patrols by the SBA Police and the Cyprus Game Fund. Taking advantage of this lack of joint action, illegal hunters have profited along the ‘border’ between the SBA and Republic, simply stepping across the dividing line to avoid either SBA Police or Game Fund patrols.
“A joint SBA-Game Fund anti-poaching team has now been set up, but we have not seen it in action yet,” said Hellicar. “Friday’s massacre should have been prevented by the SBA Police, but we believe it is the product of the unacceptably lax state of affairs in the Phasouri area as a whole,” he added.
BirdLife Cyprus also called for an immediate ban on shooting on the entire peninsula. Although almost all the peninsula is a protected reserve, a narrow coastal strip along the west is open for hunting of Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur and Quail Coturnix coturnix from early September to mid-October. But the real draw for many hunters is not the meagre numbers of this legal quarry but the huge numbers of Bee-eaters Merops apiaster and Yellow Wagtails Motacilla flava, both strictly protected species under Cyprus and EU law.
“Under the circumstances, the hunting area in operation today should be shut down immediately and indefinitely,” finished Miltiadous.