Ban hunting on the Akrotiri peninsula of Cyprus permanently.
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The Akrotiri peninsula includes a lot of agricultural plantations, a forest, but also an internationally important wetland complex, comprising of the Akrotiri Salt Lake and Akrotiri Marsh, which were designated on 20 March 2003 as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention. Twenty-seven natural habitats (22 terrestrial and 5 marine) have been recorded in the area under the Natura 2000 network study. These habitats, four of which are priority, comprise a variety of characteristics and host a big diversity of life forms.
Adjacent to the Salt Lake are found many saline and freshwater habitat types, including salt marsh, permanent and seasonal saline lagoons, sand flats,
freshwater and saline reed beds and freshwater marsh.
The Salt Lake is the largest aquatic system in Cyprus, and one of the very few major Salt Lakes within the eastern Mediterranean in semi-natural condition that exhibits a wide range of saline and freshwater influences.
The Akrotiri peninsula has an outstanding ecological and biodiversity value and supports an appreciable number of rare, vulnerable or endangered species or subspecies of plant or animal that are important for maintaining the biological diversity of the eastern Mediterranean biogeographic region.Hundreds of insect species have been identified, including 77 endemic ones, as well as 9 endemic species of snails.
The peninsula also supports an internationally important number of migratory birds providing them with a significant resting, breeding and feeding habitat. Two hundred and sixty bird species have been recorded on the peninsula, representing 70% of the total of 370 in Cyprus.
Although the site has so far survived in a mostly natural state next to the city of Limassol, which is the second largest and one of the most rapidly developing cities in Cyprus, it is under constantly intensifying threats from human activities.
There are two areas on the east of the peninsula were hunting is allowed daily from the end of August until the end of February of every year. The daily hunting activity makes policing very difficult and as a result a lot of poaching is observed, whereby poachers may shoot protected bird species and/or enter areas closed for hunting. At the same time, many birds use the areas open for hunting as flyways to reach the wetlands and many do get shot as a result. The areas open for hunting are only a breath away from the Salt Lake, the marsh and the reed beds, where many protected bird species take cover or even breed. The areas open for hunting, themselves are areas favoured by protected migratory birds.
Poachers, while difficult to control, are able to kill a number of protected bird species. Poaching is reported very frequently. There was a case of illegal shooting of 52 Red-footed Falcons in the Fassouri plantations in 2007. The combined fact that hunting is allowed daily, that the vegetation in the greater area is well suited for poachers to hide easily and escape patrols and that the areas designated for daily hunting are not well defined but at the same time are adjacent to the Salt Lake and the Fassouri plantations, and the Fassouri reed beds, creates favourable conditions for poaching, make it very difficult to control, and puts the wildlife of the peninsula, as well as the habitat itself, in great danger.
A secondary issue is the risk of lead poisoning of wetlands and pollution by discarded spent shells. This is aggravated by the fact that hunters, but mostly poachers, tend to use the cheaper lead rather than steel shots required for legal/safe waterfowl hunting.
We believe that it is of vital importance to restrict the poaching activities within the Akrotiri peninsula and that the designation of areas open for daily hunting on the east side of the peninsula only serves to make effective control of the poaching activities impossible, thus provoking serious threats for the survival of and conservation of wildlife and their habitats.
For the above reasons it is clear that it is necessary to ban hunting in all areas of the Akrotiri peninsula, as a necessary measure to prevent further destruction to the protected habitats and the important species it supports, especially wild birds.
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