The Kleides seabird islands are identified nationally and internationally as part of a Specially Protected Area. Their surrounding waters are considered to be Cyprus’s only Marine Important Bird Area by the international conservation organisation Birdlife International, as this is the only breeding site on Cyprus for Audouin’s Gull and Mediterranean Shag. Both are threatened species listed on the EU Birds Directive; member states are obliged to identify important habitats and to address threats facing their populations.
In 2017 with support from the Anglo-Turkish Association of North Cyprus, KUŞKOR increased monitoring efforts toward establishing a management plan for the protection of this site. Through the ATA funded project our aims were to understand whether any of the islands were affected by human-introduced rodent populations, to more accurately estimate the number of nesting birds and to consider the potential to initiate ecological studies to better understanding threats faced by the birds at sea.
In 2015 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus authorities passed a ban on landings to reduce human disturbance to the birds and their habitats and in 2017 we were pleased to report no illegal landings during seven surveys made. In 2017 (See January 2017 Newsletter) we found Zinaritou Island to be ratted and this may have led to its abandonment by Audouin’s Gulls; in recent years they have been nesting on a tiny barren rock, very close to a larger and competing Yellow-Legged Gull colony. Rats predate on the eggs and young of seabirds and have wiped-out seabird colonies where they have been introduced by humans. Rats can also impact the overall biodiversity of offshore seabird islands.
An action plan was written up and this was ratified by the TRNC Environmental Protection Department in December 2017. As part of the resulting action plan, in January-March 2018 KUŞKOR implemented a rat eradication project to clear rats from Zinaritou, in the hope that they will re-colonise the former breeding site.
Preparations are also underway to start ecological studies and monitoring of Mediterranean Shags and to work in collaboration with a Mediterranean-wide project on fisheries bycatch, to better understand the interactions of seabirds with local fisheries.
Thanks to FROG for providing materials for rodent control. And special thanks to Prof. Dr. Anthony Martin for advice and support.