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Essay

Andri POLI

Year-Prize: The 9th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Fight against illegal trade in wildlife

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Illegal trade of wildlife in my country and its effect on future generations

Winner's name: Andri POLI (cyprus)
Prize: Honorable Mention


   ?Ambelopoulia? is the common name for Sylvia atricapilla, which are a delicacy in my country and on the same time a protected bird species. The last three years the illegal trade of Sylvia atricapilla has taken tremendous dimensions with severe declines in their numbers as a result. More than 2 million ?ambelopoulia? were trapped and illegally sold during autumn 2014 in the island.

    Conservationists, the British Force Police and Cyprus Democracy have put an increasing effort to tackle this illegal trade but not with great success. What is the main reason behind this situation?

     The root of each problem and its solution always lies deep into the attitude of the people towards it. The local population considers ?Ambelopoulia? a famous traditional dish, a sign of wealth and the food of the privileged. As a consequence, it is only expected to continue to be an unsolved problem for years to come.

 An ex parliament member, Evyenios Hampoulas recently proudly posted on Facebook a lousy photo of himself at his home with a big plate full of well cooked ?ambelopoulia?. He captioned underneath his post that this would become reality in local restaurants, directly advocating for the legalization of a protected bird species? killing.  Hampoulas? post attracted much support from locals despite the intense condemnation from political parties, many international and national conservation agencies and non-governmental organisations. 
   Well worth is mentioning the ways poachers capture ?ambelopoulia?, with the use of wooden sticks full of clue and nets with recorded bird songs. These techniques remain the main ways that work best for poachers but non selectively. Inevitably many other species are also captured as well as ?ambelopoulia? because of this. Small reptile, amphibian and bird species have the same possibility of being caught on these nets. Anything caught but unwanted by the poachers is left to die unable to leave the trap.  According to Birdlife Cyprus, totally 153 different species are additionally effected because of these non-selective poaching techniques, which equals to the one-third of bird species found in Cyprus.  Nets with calling bird songs are mostly used to attract birds on an industrial scale. Furthermore, the extent of the problem is easily recognized when calling devices can be found anywhere in lawns and non unban areas especially in the winter.

Nets and wooden clue sticks are forbidden in Cyprus since 1974. Yet the legislation was never enforced, because it has been impossible to work. The national law forbids the trade and possession of endangered birds, in restaurants as well as in houses. The maximum fee for a poacher when caught with illegal trade is only ?780. This is not a sufficient punishment for the turnover of this illegal activity, which reaches ?15 million each year, according to estimations of the Game and Fauna Office.

A recent research by UK?s Royal Society for the protection of Birds revealed that in Cyprus happens the biggest songbird slaughter. Consequently future generations may not have the chance to enjoy Sylvia atricapilla?s melodic singing as their numbers dramatically decline. The same study also estimated that poachers nab over 15,000 birds every day during September and October each year. Besides Sylvia atricapilla, Oenanthe cypriaka, Otus scope cyprius and Oriolus oriolus are also often captured, which are endangered species. 

Tourism is slowly affected year by year as a result of the illegal trade of endangered species and the recent attacks on green activists, who tried to free birds from nets. In 2010, more than 5000 non-Cypriots, who visited the island of Cyprus, signed a declaration of protest about an immediate solution to the phenomenon of migratory birds? trapping and killing. This declaration was estimated to cost ?40-100 millions per year on the tourism industry of the island. This negative image of Cyprus may affect further the tourist flow to the island the next decades, so that in the future Cypriots will not be able to rely on tourists for an economic growth. 

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