A car bomb went off in Larnaca on Sunday with the conservationist owners of the vehicle calling on Cypriot authorities to rein in criminal activity just days after the group published information about a man suspected to be an illegal poacher.
Local media said an explosive device on a vehicle went off Sunday early evening in Pyla, Larnaca district, causing damages to the car said to belong to activists from the nature conservationist group CABS in Cyprus.
Police did not issue a report on the incident but a post on CABS’ Facebook page on Sunday evening called on Cypriot authorities to reinstate an anti-poaching squad that had been dismantled previously.
“It is clearer than ever that these criminals are not afraid of anything or anyone,” CABS wrote, adding the “Anti-poaching Squad is necessary to deal with such criminals.”
Bird trapping is illegal but it went unnoticed until the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, pitting officials against local poachers who had been breaking the law for generations
Last week CABS published a post and a video from September 2019 about illegal poaching near Maroni, Larnaca district, while also including the name of a local man and alleging he was “trapping birds, threatening volunteers and even police officers.”
“Remember this guy? Cypriot authorities know him, he kills dozens of thousands of birds, he traps every year and in the same well known location. Yet nobody is willing to stop him,” CABS wrote.
In a video filmed by CABS activists and shared on social media last week, the alleged poacher was heard arguing with a police officer during a recent encounter in Zygi and saying he was not afraid.
“Dude, I was detained in eight murder cases, I ain’t gonna be afraid of these worthless people,” the man told the officer, adding “I won’t have them do this to me, I will go to their home, do you hear me?”
Two men were arrested in late December in connection with the encounter in Zygi, where two activists who called the police had been keeping an eye on one of the suspects who appeared to be trying to trap birds with nets.
Both males were released and are facing trial while a video shot by CABS also suggested a police officer was manhandled by the main suspect during the encounter.
CABS stopped short of saying whether the car bomb was linked to the case but suggested one of the suspects had been spotted by activists at the same location between 2002 and 2021.
Bird rights activists want answers from Cypriot authorities
An official statement by CABS raised questions last month about the suspect, asking whether Cyprus Police were “willing to tolerate agents being abused by a well-known criminal individual?”
CABS said they would report incidents to embassies and the European Commission, while also calling on Cypriot authorities to reinstate an anti-poaching unit that was dismantled a few years ago.
But they also raised questions about a transfer of an officer, who had been effective according to CABS.
“Why the only police agent who managed to achieve a significant prosecution against this trapper, and confirming the true scale of his wildlife crimes, was transferred from the then functioning Anti-Poaching Unit and sent to a minor police station back in 2017?” CABS said.
Legislation back in 2017 increased fines for illegal poaching but it also meant that wildlife officers would not impose fine but complaints with police would be filed against suspects, who would then be questioned by law enforcement agents.
Bird trapping is illegal on the island but it went unnoticed until the Republic of Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, pitting officials against local poachers who had been breaking the law for generations.
But local demand and traditions have made it difficult to root out perpetrators who serve illegal "ambelopoulia" delicacies to a wide clientele behind closed doors.
A number of incidents involving violent confrontations have been caught on camera and posted on social media over the years, showing the dangers that activists often face on the front lines.