NICOSIA (AFP) — Gunmen in Cyprus have killed 46 threatened red-footed migrating falcons simply for target practice, bird conservation officials on the Mediterranean island charged on Tuesday.
Birdlife Cyprus manager Martin Hellicar said farmers on Friday found the pellet-riddled birds lying in a tight cluster on a citrus farm west of the coastal resort of Limassol.
Another six birds were found shot but still clinging on to life.
Hellicar said exacerbating the killings was the fact that the red-footed falcon was recently upgraded from “vulnerable” to “globally near-threatened”.
“Globally near-threatened is as bad as it gets, which makes this one of the worst cases of illegal bird killings ever reported in Europe,” Hellicar told AFP.
He said the shooters appeared to be practiced marskmen as only 52 spent cartridges were found in the area. The recovered cartridges were of the skeet type used in clay pigeon shooting competitions.
Hellicar said the slaughter took place in the most important migration stop-over area on the island for thousands of birds that is also a notorious poachers’ paradise.
“Anti-poaching action has plainly failed to materialise, resulting in illegal shooters becoming increasingly bold,” said Hellicar.
Cyprus sits astride migration routes for many species of birds seeking African warmth during cold European winters.