A reported attack in rural Famagusta against a conservation activist, who told police he was assaulted by suspected illegal poachers in the dead of night, caught the attention of a House member who says she will raise the issue before the internal affairs committee.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, an Italian male activist reported to police that he was attacked by three hooded men in Avgorou, rural Famagusta, near the site of suspected illegal bird trappings.
The alleged incident took place late Thursday night possibly after midnight, according to Famagusta police spokesperson Andreas Constantinou, who told CNA the activist had earlier reported illegal bird trapping activity and immediately called authorities.
'We all know the risks, but we're in it for the good fight. If we weren't doing something about it no one would be'
“The 37-year-old male had earlier spotted illegal bird trappings in a nearby field and immediately called the Game and Fauna Service, but while he was waiting for them to arrive, three individuals attacked and assaulted him while also stealing his mobile phone and a small camera,” Constantinou said.
According to the local branch of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), their volunteer had discovered trapping nets along with a bird decoy loudspeaker and immediately called wildlife officials.
Before agents showed up, he was assaulted by hooded men
But before any agents showed up, the activist was assaulted by three unknown men wearing ski masks.
“While he was waiting for the agents to arrive, he was chased and cornered by an unmarked car and subsequently attacked by three balaclava clad trappers. After repeated blows to the head and body, the volunteer fell to the ground and was kicked until he remained motionless,” CABS said.
The man was immediately rushed to the Emergency Room at Famagusta General Hospital, where he had received treatment for a concussion and many stitches on his forehead, CABS said in their statement.
Dozens of social media users rushed to comment on a CABS Facebook post, which included a photo of a man’s bloodied and bruised face.
“Although he remains in shock he is now in a stable condition,” CABS said in a public statement, while on Saturday the group responded to inquiries about their fellow activist.
“He's back out in the field - we refuse to be intimidated by these thugs!” CABS told supporters and well-wishers.
Horrified and deeply saddened MP says she will register issue
Green party MP Alexandra Attalides also wrote a comment saying she was “horrified and deeply saddened” over the reported incident, adding she would register the issue with the House internal affairs committee.
“I am a Member of the House of Representatives of Cyprus, Green Party. I am horrified and deeply saddened by this attack and I sincerely apologise to the injured activist and to CABS. I am going to bring the attack for discussion at the Interior Committee in which I am a member,” Attalides said.
Ambelopoulia delicacy for a wide clientele behind closed doors
Crime against wild birds remains out of control on the island, with activists going above and beyond to combat illegal bird trapping and raise public awareness, often ending up doing the dirty work, ranging from dismantling illegal installations to ungluing birds stuck on limesticks.
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.
But while public campaigns have made a dent into the illegal and very lucrative enterprise, local customs and traditions still make it difficult to root out perpetrators who serve illegal "ambelopoulia" delicacies to a wide clientele behind closed doors.
Activists want anti-poaching police unit back in action
CABS points to additional challenges including lack of resources dedicated to fight poachers, saying they have joined other groups and wildlife officials to call on the government to reestablish an Anti-Poaching police unit that had been dismantled.
"At this stage we must conclude that the Government is content with massive levels of illegal trapping, violence against civilians, impunity from the law and a toothless Game and Fauna Service,” CABS said in their statement.
In response to a comment that CABS activists ought to have known better and should not take big risks, CABS said the attack was part of a series of incidents.
“We all know the risks, but we're in it for the good fight. If we weren't doing something about it no one would be,” the group wrote.