Cyprus conservationists fear for island birds

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Conservationists in Cyprus accused authorities on Wednesday of allowing the spring bird-shooting season to go ahead despite a ban by the European Union. Birdlife Cyprus, a local branch of Birdlife International, said Cyprus would permit hunters to shoot magpies and crows from May 1. Conservationists fear that hunters will also take the opportunity to shoot turtledoves, a popular delicacy. Birdlife filed a complaint with the European Commission on Wednesday. «There should be no shooting of any birds during this sensitive migration period,» said Martin Hellicar, Birdlife Cyprus’s executive manager. «This is a crucial period when birds are migrating… we feel this is an excuse to give hunters the spring shooting they have been clamoring for,» he told Reuters. Hunters would be permitted to shoot magpies and crows over a six-day period from May 1 as a means of controlling their numbers. Authorities said there was nothing untoward about the shoot. «The government sets different dates for crow shooting every year, sometimes late April, sometimes late June… it is nothing suspicious,» said Pantelis Hadjiyerou, head of the island’s Game Service. «The hunters, as should always be the case, have to abide by the law. Any hunter falling out of line and who is caught by the Game Service will be charged.» An EU directive prohibits the shooting of birds in spring to ensure reproduction and sustainability in numbers. The European Commission forced Cyprus to curtail its spring hunting period last year. Hunting is a popular pastime on the east Mediterranean island, which lies on a migratory route for birds.