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Global Ideas

Cypriot MP in songbird supper scandal

If it weren't tragic it would make for perfect comedy. A member of a governmental environment committee in Cyprus has posted a picture of himself serving controversial songbirds for dinner.

The daring nature of both the dish and the post, however, appeared to be lost on lawmaker Evgenios Hamboullas, who tagged his image with the words: "Soon in our restaurants! Happy Holidays!"

Though he did not go as far as to name the species on the plate, those who saw his post responded with references to songbirds, or "ambelopoulia" as they are known locally, and where they are legally protected from poaching. In theory at least. In reality, conservationists say the black market for birds is thriving.

The contentious post has drawn widespread criticism, and led to calls for Hamboullas, who is deputy of the ruling center-right Democratic Rally (DISY), to resign. Up for re-election in spring next year, he says he will not retract either the image or his words.

Clairie Papazoglu, executive director of Birdlife Cyprus, described the member of parliament's post as "promoting an illegal and condemnable act," and urged zero tolerance for wildlife crime.

According to the group Birdlife Cyprus more than two million migratory birds were killed in Cyprus last autumn. Species such as blackcaps and song thrushes are caught using nets and lime sticks and sold to restaurants for up to 80 euros for 12 birds.

Though under the island's legislation poachers can be sentenced to three years imprisonment and fines of up to 17,000 euros, Cyprus's Game and Fauna Service, says the illegal trade is worth about 15 million euros a year.