At least 435,000 birds, including warblers and blackcaps, were slaughtered by trappers in the autumn of 2023, BirdLife Cyprus, Britain’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS) said.

The toll is an estimated 90,000 higher than the autumn of 2022. Figures are sharply down from the more than two million killed annually until a decade ago, but demand for the birds served pickled or fried in the traditional dish “ambelopoulia” has never waned.

“Illegal bird trapping has become a demand-driven wildlife crime, with the trading of trapped birds in lawbreaking restaurants being the key economic driver for organised trappers,” the conservation groups said in a report.

The report noted a rise in activity in British sovereign bases on the east Mediterranean island, possibly because of lack of law enforcement personnel.

Survey records show that at least 157 bird species have been found indiscriminately trapped, including kestrels, cuckoos and owls. Ninety of the species are listed as conservation priority species under the EU Birds Directive, the report said.

Criminal gangs either snare birds with mist nets or immobilise them on gluey lime-sticks, from which the birds must be ripped off by hand before being sold to restaurants.

The lime-stick method was on the rise after authorities lowered the fines for transgressors, BirdLife Cyprus said.

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