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Several new Special Protection Areas designated in Cyprus

BirdLife lobbying wins out

The BirdLife Partner in Cyprus has welcomed the decision that another twelve Special Protection Areas (SPAs) have been designated on the island, covering key habitats for Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus, Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus, European Roller Coracias garrulus and seven other priority species. The new designations bring the number of SPAs in Cyprus to nineteen, but six Important Bird Areas (IBAs) still remain undesignated.

Among the new Natura 2000 sites for birds are valleys home to buzzards, Cretzschmar’s Buntings Emberiza caesia and Cyprus Wheatear Oenanthe cypriaca. Remote gorges host breeding European Roller and Bonelli’s Eagle. There are also flatlands which are important for breeding Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus and migrating Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus and European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Cape Greco, another of Cyprus's new Natura 2000 sites, is an important area for migratory birds, being situated on the southeastern tip of the island. The twelve designations are the product of a long BirdLife lobbying campaign and come four months after the European Commission sent a first warning letter to Cyprus about inadequate designation of SPAs. Only four of the new SPAs are Important Bird Areas (IBAs) listed in BirdLife Cyprus’s 2004 inventory, the other eight being sites identified by the relevant government authority (the Game Fund) in close cooperation with BirdLife Cyprus, using more recent data.

Less encouraging is that six of the sixteen IBAs identified by BirdLife remain undesignated, almost four years after Cyprus's accession to the EU. Among the undesignated IBAs are three small wetlands important for breeding Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus; a coastal strip used by migrating Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii; and the Akamas peninsula, a vital migration staging post for hundreds of Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides and Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus. The reasons for the non-designation of these five key IBAs are plainly socio-economic and can therefore not to be allowed under the Birds Directive.

4th July 2014