There are numerous threats to Zakynthian wildlife, among them Forest Fires and Illegal Hunting.
Forest fires have risen at an alarming rate throughout Greece over the last ten years. One of the major reasons for this is the absence of a National Forest Map. With the confusion over land delimitation, fires have been caused intentionally by individuals eager to develop their land. WWFs Forest 4 Life campaign has created great political pressure, and with 40,000 signatures their efforts have resulted in Greece changing their forest legislation.
In October 2000 the headland above Gerakas beach, on the island of Zakynthos was devastated by fire. Much of the forest and headland formed part of the newly designated National Park, on land marked for protection in Zone F1 as part of a Presidential Decree signed December 1999.
The 1st October was an overcast day, with strong winds blowing from the sea across the headland. It is therefore difficult to envisage how this fire could have started naturally, and the suspected attack gives cause for great concern, and highlights the need for greater protection of this very important nesting site, and area of natural beauty.
- Earth Sea & Sky urge the Greek government to establish special forest fire services at all protected areas, and implement a strong forest policy.
- Increase funding of the Forestry commission, and environmental education.
- Enforce the laws on National Forest Maps, and clarify land tenure rights.
The Ionian islands particularly Zakynthos are favourite hunting grounds, especially in Spring and Autumn. Much of the headlands, forests, and olive groves swarm with camouflaged hunters sporting an alarming array of weapons, and automatic rifles. Many of the huntsmen specially mark their territory, and hold out for days in specially constructed hides, many equipped with generators, fridges and televisions. As a consequence much of the forest interior is littered with their rubbish, & lead shot adding to the risk of summer fires.
The hunting of migratory birds in the breeding season is strictly forbidden by European law, EU wild birds directive 79/409 EEC and yet the enforcement of such laws is poorly managed. Ornithologists visiting the islands in April or May are often alarmed to find birds such as the Golden Oriole, buzzards and falcons shot for trophys by the relentless huntsmen. The Turtle dove has been hunted for years in these parts and is now in decline.
Greece like France is facing prosecution in the European Courts due to their flouting of European laws and bird directives. Visitors to the islands are urged to complain to the Tourist Police if they witness any such illegal hunting. Earth Sea & Sky actively campaign for law enforcement in Zakynthos, and will be presenting a petition to the Minister of the Environment and Prefecture of Zakynthos. We invite your support.
One of the best ways to oppose the hunting is to extend the tourist season and promote bird watching, and rambling activities throughout the Ionian, which is home to some spectacular birdlife. Sustainable tourism such as this would create jobs off season and provide an alternative to the uncontrolled hunting.