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Greek Tragedy

Plans To Resume Hunting On The Island Of Tilos

The twelve year old hunting ban on Tilos, in the eastern Mediterranean is in danger of being lifted.

The ban has until now protected 27 endangered bird species identified by the European Union as being of special global importance. Renewed efforts by national hunting clubs and others to lift the hunting ban on this small (63 sq. km.) island were announced publicly on August 27, 2004 by the new Secretary General of the Aegean Periphery, an appointee of the newly elected Greek government. The local conservation group, the Tilos Park Association, delivered a written response to the Periphery office on August 30 providing scientific and legal bases in support of the ban. Official hunting season begins in Greece began on September 15, 2004.On September 3, 2004, the Tilos City Council passed a resolution supporting the continuation of the existing hunting ban on the island and authorized Mayor Anastasios Aliferis, MD, to take all necessary actions to preserve the ban to protect our irreplaceable and endangered aviary wildlife.

Tilos lies midway between Kos and Rhodos in the Dodecanese Archipelago and has among its attractions nineteen beaches, twelve mountains, seven medieval castles, a Byzantine monastery and two hundred churches, a cave full of natural discoveries, a village that is a designated cultural monument, one hundred bird species, hundreds of wild flowers and herbs, and five hundred residents.Sixteen different types of ecologically balanced habitats, or biotopes, including four hundred types of plants and over a hundred bird species comprise the island`s remarkable natural world. Every visitor to Tilos becomes an honorary bird watcher as the beauty and richness of the island`s avian population is impossible to miss. Eagles, falcons (in particular Eleonora`s Falcon Falco eleonorae or as Varvaki or Mavropetritis in Greek) other birds of prey together with shags, cormorants, gulls, rollers, bee-eaters, golden orioles, jays, doves, owls, nightingales, swallows, sparrows and herons, fill the island`s skies. The island has also become an Islander Partridge haven thanks to the self imposed hunting ban which was inaugurated in 1987.

The residents of Tilos who support the hunting ban are appealing for international help and support. You can help them by protesting to the Secretary General of the Periphery of Southern Aegean in support of the continuation of the hunting ban on Tilos. Background information and a draft text can be found on the Proact Tilos site at http://www.proact-campaigns.net/localcampaigns/tilos.html On August 28, 2004, the Director of the Tilos Park Association was notified of the Secretary General`s decision to examine the issue of lifting the existing hunting ban on the island of Tilos. This information arrived together with the disturbing news heard on the radio that the five thousand members of the Dodecanese hunting clubs were preparing an invasion on the island in an effort to punish the Municipality for its renegade approach to hunting. The very next business day after this disturbing news was received, a letter (in Greek and English) was sent to the General Secretary of the Periphery of Southern Aegean. The pertinent points made by the association were:* Contravention of European Union Council Directive 79/409/EEC Concerning the conservation of bird species living in the wild state in the European territory of the Member States. The Directive requires the protection, management and control of these species.

* Existence of endangered species requiring protection under EU regulations A Life Natura Study LIFE04NAT/GR/00101 - ?Tilos: Conservation Management of an Island Special Protection Area?] has identified the endangered species of wild birds nesting, breeding and feeding throughout the island. Greece is legally bound by the provisions of the Directive to act affirmatively to ensure the protection of these birds by conservation of the habitat where they nest, breed and forage for food; and avoidance of significant disturbances to the birds that would endanger their lives or cause them to devote unnecessary energy to flight from danger rather than feeding and reproducing.

* Excessive human disturbance Tilos is recognized scientifically as being a ?small island? of 63 square km. Mapping of the nesting and breeding sites of endangered species show that the endangered bird of prey species, as well as their avian prey (e.g. Chukar) are scattered throughout the island. The introduction of a new human activity on the island, such as hunting, (previously unknown to the current generation of birds) would create a significant disturbance.

* Existing national, regional and local conservation measures These include the establishment of a Wild Refuge area over 60 % of the island and a hunting ban for the remaining 40 %. These reflect the mandatory legal compliance required to be taken by Greece in order to avoid potential prosecution under the terms of the Directive.
* Natura 2000 Greece is at present in full compliance with the terms of the EU Directive by taking affirmative conservation measures to protect the island bird species identified for the Life Natura Project on Tilos. Lifting the hunting ban would directly conflict with and undermine the objectives of the Life Natura program

* A lifting of the hunting ban would violate EU case law The outcome of recent cases considered by the European Commission emphasise that the power of Member States to reduce the extent of a special protection area ?can be justified ONLY on exceptional grounds.? 30 % of Tilos` resident bird species are listed in Annex I of the Directive and Tilos is already designated as a Special Protection Area with hunting ban restrictions imposed on the entire island for the past decade by the Greek governmental authorities. ANY reduction of the special protection area already existing on Tilos, through the introduction of hunting, could only be justified on exceptional grounds. These do not exist in the case of Tilos.

* Eleonora`s Falcon Falco eleonorae This endangered resident breeding bird of prey species would be significantly disturbed by any introduction of hunting to this small island as evidenced by the location of its documented nesting sites. The reproduction period incorporating nesting, egg hatching and flight learning activities in autumn occurs during, and therefore conflicts with, the hunting season dates.

* Development of Ecotourism The Tilos tourism industry has worked hard through significant promotional investment to develop ecotourism on the island. Ecotourism within the tourist industry embodies the concept of tourist attraction to sites of natural beauty and special protection allowing visitors to approach wildlife in its native habitat without fear or flight on the part of nature. As a result of comprehensive promotional efforts to ecotourism operators and advertising investment the island authorities are in the process of negotiating directly with major international ecotourism operators. The financial revenue to this island during the ?off season? during which ecotourism thrives due to the favourable weather conditions for viewing and experiencing nature is of extreme critical importance to this small island whose economy essentially depends on tourism. To fill hotel rooms and restaurants during the ?off seasons? when our weather is accommodating, boat travel is viable, wildlife is abundant and diverse, and local residents requirement employment is an objective which the Municipality of Tilos, the Tilos Hotel Association, the Tilos Culture Association and the Tilos Park Foundation have been working hard to achieve for years.

David Conlin, Proact International - in cooperation with Konstantinos A. Mentzelopoulos, Director Tilos Park Association http://www.tilos-greece.de/infos/tilos-newsletter/tilos-newsletter.htm

4th July 2014