Birdwatch News Archive
Ambelopoulia is usually only served clandestinely at small tavernas, but visitors to Cyprus are urged to not encourage the custom by indulging themselves. Photo: BirdLifeCyprus.
Stop the Cypriot bird slaughter
Posted on: 06 Jul 2012
BirdLife International has launched a campaign to end Cyprus's illegal bird trapping, as it assumes European Union Presidency.
BirdLife says it encourages visitors to Cyprus to enjoy the many traditional culinary delights the Mediterranean island has to offer during its 6-month EU presidency, with one important exception: ambelopoulia, delicacies made with illegally trapped songbirds, which are then pickled or boiled.
The issue at stake is not gastronomic but ecological. Ambelopoulia is a local 'delicacy' consisting of Blackcaps and other songbirds caught in their hundreds of thousands in Cyprus every year. The birds are eaten whole, legs, beaks and all. Local demand for these traditional but illegal delicacies is the financial driving force behind what has become a mass annual slaughter of migratory birds, most of which come from mainland Europe.
The Cyprus EU Presidency begins on 1 July and runs till the end of 2012. As with any EU Presidency, visitors will flock to the host country to take part in a series of formal and informal meetings and conferences. It is a chance for Cyprus to show off its many delights and attractions.
Cyprus has a plethora of customs due to its long history and tradition and numerous distinctive dishes for visitors to taste. The best place to do this is in one of the many traditional tavernas dotted around the island’s attractive villages, where one could order a selection of Cyprus dishes such as koupepia, souvla, kolokasi, pourgouri, seftalies and makaronia tou fournou to name just a few. For the ultimate gastronomic experience in Cyprus, the best way to try all of these and more in one sitting is as 'mezedes', a selection of more than 20 vegetable and meat dishes – make sure you are hungry as food will be plentiful.
Ambelopoulia, however, spell an ecological disaster of considerable proportions, hence the BirdLife Europe warning to steer clear. Non-selective methods such as mistnets and limesticks are used for trapping birds during the migration periods, mainly during the autumn but also in the spring. Trappers mainly target Blackcap but other birds such as European Bee-eaters and shrikes are also caught. The list of trapped birds is over 150 species long and includes 78 listed as threatened by BirdLife International and the EU Birds Directive.
Moreover, the widespread application of these non-selective methods contributes to large-scale killing of birds, with literally hundreds of thousands of birds being killed every year in Cyprus. The illegal trapping – outlawed by both the EU Birds Directive and the Cyprus bird protection law – is highly lucrative, with a plate of a dozen ambelopoulia selling for between €40 and €80 in law-breaking restaurants.
The banned dish is usually served secretly, so it is unlikely that foreign visitors will be presented with the trapped songbirds in a Cyprus tavern. However, it is important for visitors to be aware of the darker side of Cypriot cuisine and steer well clear of it.
Cyprus is in the European spotlight and BirdLife Europe will be working hard together with its Cypriot colleagues in BirdLife Cyprus and the Cypriot authorities to consign bird trapping to history, where it belongs.
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