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Birdwatching, nature conservation and consultancy in North Cyprus


Bird Conservation in North Cyprus

North Cyprus is divided from the Republic of Cyprus in the South of the Island by a UN managed buffer zone that has separated the two regions since 1974. An up to date summary of the current situation can be found here.  

The international bird conservation community has largely been unable to liaise with Turkish Cypriots in the North, their civil society organisations and authorities because of the political situation and as such international bird conservation and monitoring efforts are relatively low. However the European Union, United Nations Development Program and United States Agency for International Development have provided funding for significant projects led by local civil society organisations.

Four decades of political isolation have had benefits for birds in North Cyprus. Economic growth has been hindered by decades of embargos and agricultural practices have remained relatively low-intensity. Being less developed, the North of the island contains a great deal of pristine habitat. These attractive habitats are of great conservation value as they support a high degree of endemism and biodiversity.

Olive Groves North Cyprus
Typical coastal olive groves on the North Coast.
Photo: Robin Snape

Division of the island may also have yielded protection in the North from the industrialised trapping operations common to the south and British Sovereign Base Areas. Illegal trapping does occur in North Cyprus and both equipment and birds are traded with the south. Mist nets and lime sticks are regularly reported, but due to a lack of dedicated surveys, it is not possible to assess or monitor the extent or impact of their use.

Caption: Blackcaps collected by local children around Dipkarpaz Village.
Photo: KUŞKOR. 

Hunting is a major past time of Turkish Cypriots. But despite the large hunting community, hunting days are relatively few and the Turkish Cypriot hunter’s federation has taken large steps to clean up the image of its members. Each season some hunting areas are closed to allow recovery of ground birds such as black-francolin and chukar which are typically targeted and populations of both of these species seem to be healthy. The federation employ 30 wardens across North Cyprus to guard the hunt and hundreds of signs are in place informing the public to call their hotline on 140 to immediately raise the alarm of any activities that are against the legally accepted hunter’s code. This includes a restriction on species that are allowed to be shot, restrictions on hunting days which are typically only on Sundays and some Wednesdays during autumn and winter only, within restricted areas, outside a 500m limit of a water body, with only specified methods and with a quota on the total number of birds of each species that are allowed to be taken. Local police also monitor wetlands independently to ensure that hunters are not straying too close.

WildLife Crime Number
Signs installed by the North Cyprus Hunters Federation on all highways and throughout hunting
areas informing the public to report illegal hunting activities or wildlife crime

Despite the hunting restrictions, reports of birds shot that are not on the legally accepted target list are fairly common during the winter with common buzzards, harriers, kestrels and other raptors typically among those reported. Hunters regularly flout the 500m from wetland restriction when sites are not manned which is the majority of the legal hunting time, not to shoot wetland birds but because target species are more regularly found close to water. The disturbance caused by shots fired close to wetland sites is sufficient to clear them of their wildfowl and effectively reduces the available wintering habitat on hunting days.

Article on shot Hen Harrier    
Article in National press on a shot hen harrier.
Image: KUŞKOR.

Poorly regulated use of poisons to protect lambs against red fox and stray dogs is a problem for large raptors. Each year a handful of raptor poisoning incidents are reported but many more surely go undocumented. Imperial Eagle and two vulture species have not bred for over 50 years and would probably return if the poisoning problem were tackled.

Typical mandıra where livestock would typically be protected from strays and foxes
by periodically baiting the area to reduce canine populations.

Prior to 2013, largely because of a lack of occurrence data for birds in North Cyprus, Birdlife International had designated just two Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in North Cyprus. In 2010 and 2011 with financial support from the European Union, the Turkish Cypriot bird NGO, The North Cyprus Society for Protection of Birds and Nature (KUŞKOR), undertook targeted field studies across North Cyprus and collated sightings data from local sources. In partnership with Birdlife International’s ROC partner Birdlife Cyprus these data were reported to Birdlife International and in 2013 a new IBA inventory was published which listed a further 4 IBAs for North Cyprus. The one thing North Cyprus has going for it is large amounts of good quality habitat and it is most important that these do not become developed. Local government have agreed to provide locally recognised protective status to some of these sites and the majority of them are already covered by some sort of nationally or regionally (EU) recognised protective legislation.

Map of Bird areas in Cyprus
Important Bird Areas in North Cyprus

Since this project volunteers at KUŞKOR have continued to fundraise, maintain an office and moderate a bird sightings forum whose membership continues to grow. KUŞKOR encourage birding by organising monthly field trips for locals and promoting the work of local photographers, many of whom are ex-hunters who have exchanged shot guns for expensive optics. Through its members and volunteers KUŞKOR continues to monitor important bird sites, documenting activities within IBAs and other nationally recognised Specially Protected Areas, reporting recommendations to the Turkish Cypriot Environmental Protection Department and campaigning for protection of specific sites.

Sea Watch
Sea watch during autumn organised by KUŞKOR.
Photo: Ergüler

KUŞKOR maintains specific campaigns against the use of poison for controlling canines and against illegal hunting activities.

Posters erected by KUŞKOR in coffee shops and petrol stations
during hunting season to encourage reporting of illegal hunting.

KUŞKOR also undertakes field trips with school children and youth groups and distributes educational materials to and organises talks in Turkish Cypriot schools.

Students at Dip Karpaz
Field trip with Dipkarpaz Primary School 2014.
Photo: Robin Snape





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