Kyrenia Post

Newspaper in North Cyprus

Kuşkor: Protecting Cyprus’ Wildlife and Nature

The Society for the Protection of Birds and Nature (KUŞKOR) was established in 1988 by Asuman Kuyucu, Harry Sigg and Ertuğrul Akçaoğlu.

It started with the distribution of a book called “World of the Birds” supplied by the Turkish branch of the World Wildlife Fund to Primary School students and the fostering of bird watching amongst the members of the Green Action Group and Cyprus Art Association.

Having determined that education was paramount to the aim of wildlife conservation, KUŞKOR embarked on a year-long project in 1989 with the cooperation of the Green Action Group. The project scope included:

  • Educational slide shows on the lives of birds in all North Cyprus primary schools.
  • Public bird watching events to raise awareness in the wider community.
  • Photographic exhibitions and slide shows at city centres and primary schools
  • The distribution of conservation related information leaflets.
  • Interviews with hunters to provide statistical research on the species being hunted.

In 1990, a further Educational Project was undertaken with the help of Alev Ören. The project included bird watching trips for secondary school students, slide shows and poster hangings in village coffee shops about poisoning of vultures, trapping blackcaps and production of stickers to draw attention to migratory birds.

Requests for posters came from those villages that had not yet received them and soon, KUŞKOR posters decorated the walls of restaurants and village coffee houses all over North Cyprus.

Cautionary press releases were prepared for every hunting season and unauthorized hunters were reported in order to promote awareness of bird conservation issues. While monthly public bird watching continued, members’ personal observation records were collected and collated into a report which was distributed. The local press and Ministry of Environment were informed about the events on a regular basis. The then TRNC President of the Assembly Hakkı Atun and Presidency Consultant Ergün Olgun even took part in bird watching trips!

In 1991, a ‘Bird Conservation Priorities’ in North Cyprus Report was compiled and published detailing hunting observations. This work also included bird observation records from some of the wetlands.

KUŞKOR printed its annual observation report, compiling the observation records of the members and with the contribution and field observations largely provided by Peter Flint. The reports called “North Cyprus Bird Report” were published in the years of 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001, for four years and in April 2001, a Ringing Report called “KUŞKOR Ringing Scheme Expedition Report” was prepared. However, thereafter, there was a lull in the capacity and activities of the organisation.

In 2007, KUŞKOR established the first annual monitoring of the threatened Audouin’s Gulls Larus audouinii (a type of Gull which resides on the Mediterranean and the western coast of Saharan Africa and the Iberian peninsula) at the only colony on the island, and the World’s most Easterly colony on the remote Kleides islets. The project continues almost a decade on and has alerted KUŞKOR to the continuing decline of this colony. In response, with the assistance of the authorities,  banned landings on the island and funded the installation of signage alerting people of the gulls and the laws against disturbing them.

Between 2007 and 2009, with funding from the German bird conservation group NABU, KUŞKOR undertook limited one-off surveys in the Karpaz area to determine the extent of illegal trapping. Trappers targeting black caps using lime sticks and mist nets. Trapping and other illegal bird killing is now regularly reported and further, more detailed surveys are required.

In 2010 and 2011 KUŞKOR secured EU funding to map out bird conservation areas under the Birdlife International Important Bird Area (IBA) scheme. Intensive field surveys were undertaken over two seasons and the data were presented to Birdlife. This resulted in the designation of 6 IBAs (4 of them new) in 2014. The data and site boundaries were made available to the North Cyprus authorities and to the EU and after having liaised with both of these organisations, on the boundaries of potential EU Natura 2000 Special Environment Protection Area (SEPA), and buffer zones around key wetlands in order to mitigate the impact of human activities on birds in these areas.

During this period KUŞKOR also secured funds from United States Agency for International Development to provide optical gear, some research equipment and a huge nature library, which has since been well used by members and by school groups.

In 2011 KUŞKOR established long term monitoring of Bonelli’s eagles, the only remaining large raptor in North Cyprus that has not succumb to poisoning and persecution. This work has been supported by Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME).

In 2014 a project commenced with EU to improve Kukla reservoir in the Mesaoria Plain IBA. Signage, hides and screening was provided for improved birding whilst minimising disturbance of birdwatchers and bringing tangible ecotourism into a Turkish Cypriot village which was previously way off the tourism map.

In 2015 OSME funds to encourage European Roller in the Mesaoria Plain and Haspolat IBAs through a nest box scheme was secured.

The KUŞKOR ringing scheme continues to be active and in 2015, KUŞKOR became a member of the European Union for Bird Ringing (EURING).

 

Education and Awareness

KUŞKOR is actively organising educational seminars for particular interest groups and school children. These lectures are on the topics of wildlife, mainly birds, natural environment, ecology and threats. KUŞKOR has a well-stocked nature library of over 600 books called Cyprus Nature Library which is open for use by local school groups and its members.

They raise awareness and distribute information to the public through their newsletters and facebook page which currently has almost 2000 members. They also launch press releases periodically to promote our projects and to draw public attention to concerning issues.

KUŞKOR organize and guide monthly field trips. 10-25 people attend to  trips during which they gain and share experiences of sites, bird distributions and identification skills. You can learn about these trips from their social media page.

 

Research and Monitoring

KUŞKOR’s ringing scheme (EURING code CYK) uses rings with distinct labels (North Cyprus KUSKOR) and they ring over 100 birds annually as part of our ornithological studies.

Since 2011, KUŞKOR has encouraged locals and visitors to North Cyprus to share sightings data on its online forum. This has yielded a lot of data and improved knowledge of bird distribution and the relative importance of various sites. Soon, this function will be replaced by an online database. However, we KUŞKOR encourages the use of the forum for its other purposes such as debate on species ID and sharing of information on birds in North Cyprus.

In 2007 KUŞKOR established the first annual monitoring of the threatened Audouin’s Gulls Larus audouinii at the World’s most Easterly colony on the remote Kleides islets. The project has alerted conservationists to the continuing decline of this colony.

In 2011 KUSKOR established a long term research and monitoring scheme for the Bonelli’s Eagle nest sites in North Cyprus.

Monthly field trips provide a minimum baseline for surveys and checks on the status of important habitats whilst encouraging our members and guests to get out in the field and to report birds independently.

 

Law

KUŞKOR works with relevant authorities to ensure that current environmental laws and regulations are enforced and to towards the development of legislation to best protect birds and habitats according to the data that it gathers. In 2014 their lobbying resulted in the establishment of law preventing landing on the Kleides islets, Karpaz Peninsula, in order to protect our nesting Audouin’s Gulls.

 

Photography

Many of the members are photographers and recognise the growing importance of wildlife photography in birding both for accurately recording species and as an alternative past time to hunting. In recent years, KUŞKOR  has secured funds from the North Cyprus Ministry for Tourism and exhibited over 200 photographs from local photographers of birds and other wildlife during 2 day exhibition events at Bellapais Abby in Kyrenia. Each year photographers are invited to submit their work for publication in their annual calendar. 500-1000 calendars are distributed per year, proceeds of which supports the organisations amazings work.

 

Collaboration

An active piece of the Environment Platform of North Cyprus, which is tackling current vital problems through lobbying, KUŞKOR works in collaboration with other environmental groups, such as the Society for Protection of Turtles, towards the protection of areas of natural beauty and the flora and fauna of North Cyprus.

 

The organisation’s main aims are:

– To protect the birds of North Cyprus and their habitats

– To halt the excessive killing of birds, particularly indiscriminate killing or killing of species of conservation concern

– To inform the public on issues impacting birds, their habitats and nature

– To educate youth groups in the importance of birds, nature and their conservation through school classes and field trips and through liaising with and advising the Local authorities on curricula

– To ensure that current environmental laws and regulations are enforced and to work with Local authorities towards the development of legislation to best protect and provide for birds and nature

– To encourage and bring together people who are interested in birds and nature

– To promote the observation, study and publication of the subject of birds and nature in North Cyprus both through academic and citizen based research

 

KUŞKOR will be holding a wonderful weekend during the first weekend of May in the Karpaz region. One in which the public are invited to really get stuck into nature and wildlife. Ideal for birdwatchers, photographers, and anyone who desires a time out- peace, tranquillity and of course, natural beauty. For more information, please call Robin on : 0542 881 37 50 . Alternatively, you may speak with Damla on : 0548 886 86 84. Or email the team at : info@kuskor.org.

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