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Flora & Fauna

Flora & Fauna in Greece

Greece has a rich and varied wildlife, from bears and wolfs to a rich variety of birds that include vultures and eagles. The regions of central and northern Greece are the habitats of the brown bear, wolf, jackal, and wild boars. For information on bears and wolves in Greece , visit www.arcturos.gr. Foxes, squirrels, and weasels are common on the mainland; the rare European “suslik” a ground squirrel also has its habitat in the region.

Greece has several species of snakes, most of them poisonous, like most snakes they will only strike if they feel threatened. Small lizards can be seen scurrying along rocks and walls, these are not poisonous and therefore no threat to humans.

The birdlife is an eldorado for those interested in birds, resident birds include thrushes, swallows, bee-eaters and wagtails, a large number of migratory birds pass over Greece on the way to feeding grounds in Africa or to the nesting sites in Europe . One of the largest is the stork; they arrive in spring from Africa where they have spent the winter, they return to the same nest year after year. The nests are built upon any appropriate object, be it church towers or electricity poles.

On the lakes in the north of Greece , there are many species of birds including Herons, cormorants and the very rare Dalmatian pelican. In the Dadia forest nature reserve in the region of Thrace , some of Europe ’s largest numbers of birds of prey nest, they include the magnificent black vulture with a wingspan of 3m, golden eagles and the griffon vulture. The last of Europe ’s royal eagles, of which there are only 15 pair nest on the delta of the Evros River . Bird-watchers can contact the Hellenic Ornithological Society, www.ornithologiki.gr.for more information. Many of Greece ’s species of wildlife are on the list of protected species.

The marine life in Greece is also under threat from tourism, Europe ’s rarest mammal, the monk seal, once prolific in the Mediterranean , only 200 are to be found in the waters around Greece . These seals are disturbed by the multitude of tourist’s boats sailing or anchoring near to the caves where the seals breed. The Hellenic Society for the study and protection of monk seals, www.mom.gr has more information for those interested.

Another species of marine life under threat from the encroaching tourist development is the loggerhead turtle. Their nesting sites are on the islands of Crete , Zakynthos, and Kefallonia also around the coast of Peloponnese . The turtles need clean undisturbed beaches to lay their eggs, here is the problem, the building of hotels near to the beaches, and the influx of tourists to the same beaches, disturbs the turtles. Some beaches have been designated nature reserves; other beaches have dusk to dawn curfews. Conflict with local businessmen and hotel owners hinder the enforcement of protection for the turtles.

The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece www.archelon.gr has more information and welcomes volunteers for a minimum of one month to help in the research and monitoring of the turtles. The waters around Greece are the home to dolphins; they are a pleasure to watch as they cavort in the bow waves of boats. The striped dolphin however is under threat, not from tourism, but from a viral sickness, that affects the dolphin’s immune system.

The variation of plants on Greece is exceptional; over 6000 species grow here, some are indigenous to Greece . The island of Crete and the Peloponnese region of Greece are the areas with the largest profusion of wild flowers. Orchids, of which they are over 100 varieties, grow alongside anemones, violets, tulips, peonies, narcissus and primroses.

The flowers start to bloom in early march and cover the hillsides until the summer. The forests that once covered much of Greece have all but disappeared, due to the use of the timber in boat building and housing throughout the centuries, only in the north of the country can you see the last of the native forests. Trees include white poplars, spearheaded cypresses, chestnut, pine, and fir. The Cyprus plane tree can be seen nearly in every village, usually in the village square where it shades the residents sitting outside the local café.

One tree with an interesting legend is the Judas tree, whose flowers bloom before the leaves, according to legend, the flowers were originally white, but when Judas hanged himself from the tree the flowers turned pink in shame, due to his treachery.

The olive tree, which the Greeks hold in highest regard, is the cause of a major ecological disaster. Due to its versatility of its oil not only used in cooking, but also in lighting and lubrication, huge tracts of native forest were cut down to make way for olive groves. Without the surface root systems of the native trees, the soil soon eroded and the olive trees, without a good surface root system was of no help at all in stopping this erosion.

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