I recently had the opportunity to visit the Cyprus Game and Fauna Service Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre and observe the incredibly rewarding process of ringing and releasing rehabilitated birds of prey. In a country where nature conservation forms the least of the worries of the general public, hits lowest in the political agenda, and where illegal killing and poaching of birds is an illegal but widespread and highly accepted practice, i felt that what I experienced at the Centre was figurative of the ”other” story.
These images attempt to tell the story of a few men and women who are still fighting for this purpose against all odds; as much as they attempt to tell the story of the survival of these 50 incredible birds, who managed to recover from poisoning, shooting and trapping again against all odds. These 50 birds may only be a fraction of what could have or should have been saved in Cyprus. And the number of saved birds is meager compared to what could have been, had their habitats been conversed instead of being converted into golf courses with government blessings. But it mirrors the fraction of the people who work tirelessly for their survival, and beams hope.
As Mr Lyssandrou, head of the Centre and veteran of the Game and Fauna Service, caught a Kestrel from the cage to bring to the ringing station, I notice how scruffy its feathers looked. He explained to me that this bird was found on a limestick and rescued by the Game and Fauna Service. I couldn’t help but feel bad for this little guy, who I always enjoy watching on the electricity poles in my neighborhood, who fell victim of this gluttonous crime. The birds kept coming from the cages to the ringing station where they met the experienced hands of Dr Clairie Papazoglou of BirdLife Cyprus who, together with the rest of the Game and Fauna Service and BirdLife Cyprus team, placed a ring on their foot, measured their wings’ length, weighted them, identified their sex and age, recorded all that and released them. Ringing is a very important part of research, because every metal ring has a unique number bearing all the information of where the bird was ringed, so that if it is found again, scientists know where it came from thereby creating knowledge about migration. Some of the ringed birds were placed back in transferable cages, as the Service had a plan for their release, closer to where they were found injured, and maximizing the chances that these birds get back on their track. Feathers from the birds were also collected and put in test tubes to be transferred to the University of Cyprus and used to create a DNA Database of the birds of Cyprus.
It all sounds sciency but to any observer with a mere understanding of how nature works, this experience made me feel a bit safer; that some people are out there working hard for our common heritage. So that we can keep enjoying what belongs to all of us. And my contribution to the story, and what forms part of my professional work, is capturing it to tell it to you.