Under pressure from European and local nature
conservationists, Cyprus authorities are stepping up their
efforts to stamp out a centuries-old lucrative pastime of
capturing, killing and savouring internationally protected
By Philippos Stylianou
wardens and policemen have begun confiscating pickled
ambelopoulia" - blackcaps - from shop shelves and prosecuting
shopkeepers for possessing and trading in a protected species
in violation of a 1974 law.
Similar measures are being
taken against restaurants and tavernas that serve the
prohibited delicacy, while the suppliers who catch and kill
the birds in their hundreds using nets and lime sticks have
been feeling the brunt of the law for some years now.
Game Authority Director Pantelis Hadjiyeros told The
Cyprus Weekly that more than 100 people were prosecuted in the
past weeks for various offences concerning ambelopoulia. In
the most recent of cases, heavy fines of up to 1,500 were
imposed, but so far no one has been jailed although
legislation also envisages prison sentences.
the measures taken, the massive slaughter of blackcaps
persists owing to the huge economic interests involved and the
widespread popularity of the delicacy. The restaurant price
usually charged for each tiny bird - served either pickled or
boiled in pilaf - can be as high as CYP 2,00.
cannot eradicate this deep-rooted practice overnight," said
Hadjiyeros. "We need more time, but from now on the Game
Authority will not show any tolerance."
however, that the campaign so far lacked a general plan of
action. He said that one is being worked out and will be
submitted for governmental approval before the next
ambelopoulia season starts.
Waves of this migratory
species mainly arrive at the south-eastern coast of the island
in late autumn, only to be entrapped by poachers, who use them
as a profitable supplement their income.
ambelopoulia "harvest" in Cyprus was recorded by mediaeval
travellers to the island. It was apparently viewed by the
indigenous population as a means of sustenance in those hard
times, but it was also encouraged by foreign rulers of the
island, who even exported them to their home states, such as
Venice and England.
A two member delegation from the
Council of Europe, currently in the island to discuss
environmental issues, has asked to see the Interior Minister
about the measures taken to protect the ambelopoulia.