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10 Jun, 2020 16:21

UK military killing THOUSANDS of farm animals in Cyprus and threatening PROTECTED wildlife zones – report

UK military killing THOUSANDS of farm animals in Cyprus and threatening PROTECTED wildlife zones – report

The British military is “knowingly” causing the deaths of farm animals in Cyprus on an “almost daily basis” and has paid millions of pounds in compensation to farmers since 1995, an investigation has revealed.

Activity at a British base on the Mediterranean island has resulted in 1,764 claims for “animal loss” over the last five years from “live-firing and low-flying,” the Declassified UK website revealed on Wednesday. The animal deaths are happening near the Royal Air Force (RAF) base at Akrotiri on the southern peninsula of Cyprus, the investigative website said.

Paying compensation to farmers is now commonplace, and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) paid out almost £750,000 during the 2018-19 financial year – most of which was to settle 334 animal loss claims. One of the payouts last year covered costs for “abortions and associated vet fees” after pregnant goats were killed by low-flying aircraft.

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Declassified UK said internal documents show that the MOD is “knowingly” causing the deaths by permitting planes to fly as low as 100 feet above the ground. A report in 2009 explained that the goats “abort their unborn kids/lambs if panicked” by low-flying planes and the “dry firing/pyrotechnics.”

The MOD has also paid compensation to UK farmers for animal deaths, but the numbers of incidents are “far higher” in Cyprus, Declassified said, suggesting the military may make more of an effort to avoid such deaths on British soil. 

For instance, only 22 claims were settled across the UK between 2014 and 2018 for animal deaths due to aircraft noise, while 1,034 were made in Cyprus over the same period.

The investigative website found that more than half of the deaths are close to the Paramali river, which is a protected wildlife zone described by the MOD as being home to Europe’s “most valuable and threatened species” including falcons, harriers and kestrels. It’s not known, however, if the British military activity has killed any wild animals.

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The UK has two bases at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, which it retained following the granting of independence to Cyprus in 1960. It uses the land for training soldiers for combat in the Middle East, even creating a “mock Afghan village” for an “authentic” experience.

Local farmers are not permitted to water or harvest their crops in the areas during live-firing exercises, a situation which results in “crop loss” claims for “poor yield or overripe items unable to be sold.” Between animal and crop loss claims, the MOD has paid out £8 million to claimants over the past 25 years.

The internal documents also showed the military was aware that expanded training exercises in areas with large farms would “inevitably see more expensive claims being presented” — but proceeded with the plans anyway. They do, however, conduct some reconnaissance before exercises in an effort to maintain “good relations” with the community.

The presence of the British military in the area has long been controversial for Cypriots, with a 2001 proposal to build a large radio mast at a site on the edge of Limassol Salt Lake sparking riots outside the RAF base. 

The lake is recognized as a “wetland of international importance” and hosts 15,000 greater flamingos during the winter months. The presence of an RAF runway less than one kilometer away means disturbance to the wildlife there is a “major issue,” BirdLife Cyprus director Martin Hellicar told Declassified. An MOD spokesperson said all training and activity takes place under “strict conditions” and with precautions to minimize risk.

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