Organized Crime Rings Kill Over 400,000 Birds: REPORT

(Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Julianna Frieman Contributor
Font Size:

Organized crime rings in Cyprus reportedly killed over 400,000 songbirds last fall.

Criminals trapped the winged creatures after they were attracted to bushes and orchards by planted decoys and speakers playing birdsongs, a BirdLife Cyprus report found, The Guardian reported.

Robins, sparrows and other birds were caught on the island by criminals using “mist” nets and glue-covered branches, the report said, according to The Guardian. Approximately 435,000 birds were reportedly killed by organized crime rings via these tactics in the fall of 2023, up from 90,000 killed across 2022.

Criminals sell dead birds through secret markets to restaurants, which pickle and boil the birds to become a local dish called “ambelopoulia,” the report stated, the outlet reported. One serving of the Cyprus delicacy, which consists of songbirds to be swallowed whole, typically sells for hundreds of euros, according to EcoTourism. (RELATED: Authorities Reportedly Arrest Six For Smuggling Duck Guts)

Songbird killings were trending downward until the fall of 2023, BirdLife Cyprus’ report found, The Guardian reported. Martin Hellicar, the director of the avian awareness group, reportedly warned that the birds must be actively protected.

“Despite the very good progress made in recent years, this autumn was a reminder that this can be quickly reversed if enforcement resources are not maintained,” Hellicar said, according to the outlet.

Cyprus outlawed catching songbirds for human consumption in 1974, the outlet reported. However, organized crime groups reportedly continue to trap the birds regardless. Cypriot authorities have cooperated with BirdLife Cyprus and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds to address the problem, according to the outlet.

Netting across over 4.5 kilometers was employed to catch the birds, the report stated, The Guardian reported. The British military installation on Cyprus, called the Sovereign Basing Area (SBA) reportedly had a rise in nets deployed by 41%. BirdLife Cyprus also found that the SBA significantly reduced the resources it devoted to countering bird poaching, according to the outlet.

“This season was a good case study of what can happen when police resources are removed/redirected from illegal trapping enforcement and deterrence action,” the report stated, the outlet reported.