For the first time in Cyprus, a €21,000 fine has been imposed for using poisoned bait to kill wild birds.
Placing poisoned baits in the countryside is a crime against wildlife that has driven iconic bird species, such as the Vulture, to the brink of extinction in Cyprus.
The announcement by BirdLife Cyprus
Officials recently issued an extrajudicial fine of 21,000 euros for killing wild birds with poisoned baits. The imposition of the penalty is a significant step forward in the prevention of similar illegal actions that have a devastating impact on Cyprus' biodiversity.
The out-of-court fine is based on offenses that appear to have occurred in December 2021, when three birds of prey - two Spitzaetidae and a Diplosiarchus - were discovered dead in an area of the Limassol district community of Dsironas. The identification of the above birds was made using signals emitted by a satellite transmitter carried by one of the two Spitzaetas, which prompted the mobilization of the Game and Fauna Service and the subsequent investigation in the area in collaboration with the Police.
The dead birds were discovered during the investigation in a lodging facility, along with other evidence that, after further investigation and scientific analysis, was linked to a particular person. This person was then served with a writ of summons for the offenses of intentionally killing and/or capturing a protected wild bird and killing wild endangered birds with the use of poison. The toxic and illegal substance carbofuran was found to be the cause of the dead birds' deaths, according to the autopsy and related toxicological examinations.
According to the provisions of the Wild Birds and Game Protection and Management Act 2003 (Law 152(I)/2003), the suspect received an extrajudicial fine of €21,000 for a number of offenses. The suspect will appear before a judge if the extrajudicial fine is not paid. The court may impose a sentence of up to 3 years in prison, a fine of up to €20,000, or a combination of those penalties, for each offense separately, in accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned law.
It is the first time that the crime of using poisoned baits and killing wild birds with poison has been documented in Cyprus. The law imposes harsh penalties for killing endangered species, such as the Spitz Eagle in this case. Immediate mobilization and coordination of the relevant authorities, including the Police, the Game and Wildlife Service, the State General Laboratory, the Veterinary Services, and the Department of Agriculture, was critical. Such outcomes occur when multiple stakeholders work together to develop their skills and knowledge in forensic investigation of wildlife crime through participation in the Wildlife Crime Academy, a learning platform that employs best practices from Spain.
BirdLife Cyprus Programme Coordinator Melpo Apostolidou stated: "By Cypriot standards, the culmination of everyone's efforts on a specific suspect is a landmark, and the sentencing is a positive development in the intensive efforts made by all involved to combat the placement of poisoned baits in the countryside. We believe that Cyprus is now mature enough to follow the lead of other European countries and invest even more in efforts to prevent and combat wildlife poisoning. In Spain, for example, three people were sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, as well as €67,538 in compensation for the damage they caused."
Placing poisoned baits in the countryside is a crime against wildlife that has driven iconic bird species, such as the Vulture, to the brink of extinction in Cyprus. Since 2005, 31 Vultures have been poisoned, leaving Cyprus with only 9 Vultures today. This population is being bolstered by the importation of birds from Spain as part of the 'Life with Vultures' program.
Finally, it is suggested that all poisoning incidents be thoroughly investigated in order to identify and prosecute the suspects. To that end, the public is invited to help by condemning and reporting incidents of this type of wildlife crime to the Game and Wildlife Service's Poison Bait Detection Teams at 99267916 or 99255086, as well as the local police station.