Cyprus is recognised as a hotspot for illegal bird trapping in the Mediterranean basin. A consumer demand for the Eurasian blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) is driving the use of non-selective trapping methods, resulting in the indiscriminate killing of millions of migratory birds. Efforts to tackle the issue have so far been characterised mostly by a top-down approach, focusing on legislation and enforcement. However, trapping levels are not decreasing and conflict between stakeholder groups is intensifying.
To understand why efforts to stop illegal bird trapping have not been effective, we used semi-structured interviews to interview 18 local bird trappers and nine representatives from the pertinent environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the governmental agencies responsible for enforcing the legislation.
We found distinct differences between the views of the local trapping community and the environmental NGOs, particularly on why trapping is occurring and its impact on the avifauna. This disparity has contributed to misrepresentations of both sides and a high degree of conflict, which is potentially proving counterproductive to conservation interventions. In addition, it appears that trappers are a heterogeneous group, likely driven by various motivations besides profit.
We argue that stakeholders interested in reducing illegal bird trapping need to develop anti-poaching strategies that aim at minimising the disparity in the views, and subsequently the conflict, acknowledging also that trappers are not a homogenous group, as often treated.