Day 1 of the anti poaching camp in Cyprus. I arrived at midnight at Larnaca airport and was welcomed by a British ex army guy who looked a bit like Bruce Willis and asked me if I paid for good medical insurance because apparently he got shot at the other day and was chased by poachers in pick-up trucks. He also nonchalantly took his phone out of his pocket and showed me pictures of dead hoopoes - which finally got me a little worried. It looks like I have arrived in a bird war zone.
Without wasting any time we get in the car and immediately go on a 6 hour patrol of a transect of countryside. We can’t use any lights nor speak and have to move very slowly and quietly through the arid fields and dry thorny bushes. When a car approaches I get told to lie on the ground and be very still. Quail decoys are playing their deadly sound all around us and our task is to get GPS coordinates of all of them and report them to the police, who will then go and remove them. Or so I am told.
I'm learning as I go along, follow the brief, quietly hushed orders I get given, and try to keep alert while my mind occasionally wonders off pulled in by the beautifully star loaded sky. The moon is but a small slither, barely casting any light on us, and the Milky Way is resembling an ornate embroidery of silver and copper threads against the dark blue sky.
Electronic decoys are the only sounds I can hear. In the distance, their metallic, repetitive sounds spread through the flat dusty land. They work by attracting migrating birds in the night so that at sunrise hunters come in, flush the birds, and shoot them. We get back to our apartments at 6am, where I get a chance to speak properly with one of the camp coordinators. He warns me that what I saw last night was absolutely nothing, and that in the next days he’ll take me into the Sovereign British Areas where most of the massacre is taking place… Time to get the camera out!