I can finally reveal the secret I've been keeping with me for the past week: Chris Packham and his crew (independently of any broadcasters) have been with us for the past 4 days, filming CABS, the work we've done and the incredible and little known reality that is illegal bird trapping in Cyprus. I had to keep this a secret because if the word accidentally came out and got the British base, the poachers would have most likely suspended their trapping activity for fear of attracting too much media attention (just as it happened a couple of days ago with the other group of journalists). Thankfully this wasn't the case and Chris and his crew managed to get all the shocking footage needed to make a series of short films on the topic, very much like they did for the Malta massacre a couple of years ago.
Meeting Chris in Cyprus was an extraordinary experience. I can tell you he is as passionate and lovely as he appears to be on TV and he gave us the most amazing speech of encouragement you can imagine. These days, it is no longer enough to care about a subject, if you believe in it you must act, and I couldn't agree more with his words.
For the very keen and the die hard Packham fans, you can watch this internet broadcast he did less than an hour ago. Otherwise rest assured I'll post here updates on his upcoming films on Cyprus
Day 5 of the anti-poaching camp in Cyprus (after day 4 I was too tired to even put a sentence together). In the last 48 hours I got chased off by a poacher (but I outran him) after removing some of his traps, I filmed another film crew who is here to film CABS (!), I was intimidated by a police officer (yes, the people who should be doing our work and who recommended I leave Cyprus before something bad happens to me) and I have been massively disappointed by a team of journalists who turned up with a story already in mind and who are refusing to do any actual journalism. This was particularly upsetting because, as opposed to the words I write and that very few people will ever read, their news report could potentially reach a massive audience back in Britain. But sadly, they refused to come out in the night with us to see what is going on on British ESBA and instead they interviewed the British police and believed every word they said. Not only that, but they went out in the night accompanied by the police and of course, that specific night there was no sign of trapping. All of the 300+ trapping sites that I've seen constantly active were now silent - no decoys, no nets. So now the journalist is refusing to even acknowledge that there is a wildlife crime problem in Cyprus and we are feeling completely let down and powerless. For the first time as a filmmaker I find myself on the other side of the media and it isn’t a good place to be in when you care about the subject so much. Thankfully, we have another and much better plan in mind... more soon!
Here's a picture of one of the many blackcaps stuck in nets. Terrible sight, but the sky at least was beautiful as always.
Day 3 of the anti-poaching camp in Cyprus. I walked for 8 miles in the almost palpable blackness of the night in the middle of the British Eastern Sovereign Base Area of Dhekelia (ESBA), carrying two rescued owls in my bag. Their tiny claws scratching against my back, begging me to set them free. These were only two of the 15000 birds that get killed every night in Cyprus and that we had to walk past, unable to set them all free, while trying to dodge the trappers that were slaughtering them right next to us, sometimes less than a hundred meters away.
Kilometres of nets, so many nets that at one point we even accidentally walked into one, with rare species hanging from them like shrikes, nightjars and scops owls. With our bags and pockets full of birds, we couldn't rescue any more than we did. To quote our coordinator's words "this is like emptying the ocean with a bucket". There isn't much we can do from here, a bunch of volunteers against powerful organised crime at work day and night, with 300 armed guards constantly patrolling every inch of land.
What needs to be done is inform the British public that this is happening on their land, in their name. Only a strong opposition coming from the UK and military action on the ground stands a chance of changing the course of things over here.
For now, here's a picture of the owls I carried out of the base and that were freed in a safe area at sunrise.