Monday, 29 October 2007

In a green, green, green, green, ouzo, ouzoland...

This year the last charter-tourists weren't very lucky. It was raining cats and dogs for many days and the rain filled the streets, the rivers and the fields. While the tourists were mourning their last days, the inhabitants of the island were happy. Finally water! And if you listened very carefully, you could hear nature sighing: the grass was growing as fast as possible. The island is green again.

Dried up riverbeds and wetlands were flooded, as were some dirt roads. The water-birds must have been partying. Yesterday we saw the flamingos not only wandering around the salt pans near Skala Kalloni and Skala Polychnitos, but also they were roaming around in a flooded field at Skala Vasilika (just next to Skamnioudi).

Would these birds know that their living areas are in the news, thanks to some hunters who don't respect wildlife protection? The Lesvorian Forest Department and the Office for Wildlife in Kalloni have for over a year been trying to make the area of the saltpans next to Kalloni and Agia Paraskevi into a protected area, because there are still hunters permitted to shoot there. Which is absurd because these wetlands are known for their rare bird species, and are therefore some of the favourite spots for birdwatchers and are often visited by normal tourists who like to admire the flamingos. Not only hunters threaten this area, but also motocross racers, illegal builders and illegal dumpers. So help these organizations to better preserve wildlife and sign their petition on the website: (Look on the right side for the in English 'ONLINE PETITION').

The European Court probably agrees with these actions. Last week Greece was sentenced by the Court for not having enough Special Protected Areas for migrating birds. According to Europe 25.2% of Greek territory should be divided into 186 protected areas for birds. Until now Greece only has 151 such areas and about 12 birds species in Greece are in danger of extinction. Thanks to some hunters who don't care about wildlife.

Around 22 September it became clear that hunters are not careful about what they shoot. Around Agiasos some hunting patrols found some poachers who had killed 62 Corn Crakes (Crex Crex), birds that are protected worldwide. It was even the Lesvorian Hunting Association which brought this scandal out into the open. They definitely have to have a serious word with their members about what and where they are allowed to hunt.

The same thing applies to Cyprus. This nation was in the news last week because hunters killed 52 Red-footed Falcons, also a protected bird. In a letter an English birdwatcher asked bird lovers not to go to Cyprus anymore, because of this scandalous deed.

I myself do not know that much about birds. I know a tiny little bit about what a quail looks like because a very long time ago I went hunting with a man on Rhodes. He was hiding for an entire morning in the bushes, only to take one shot at one quail. As far as I know it was a wild quail. Here on the island it seems that they breed quails, only to get them shot by hunters. I must admit that my only hunting adventure gave me a feel for the excitement that a hunter must feel while hunting. But here on the island they play foul: I was told that a few days before the quails are set free, to be prey for the hunters, they are fed with corn soaked in ouzo!

Well, if those hunters are also fed with a glass of ouzo, I wouldn't want to get too close to them. Because I was also told that a quail looks nothing like a Corn Crake. And because a few years ago some local hunters, probably bored with small game, set free some wild boars around mount Olympos. Of course these boars multiplied, so that now they are not only fun for the hunters but also a nuisance to farmers. I don't fancy the idea of meeting a boar while walking in the forest. And what are you supposed to do when you meet a boar that has eaten food soaked in ouzo?

The boars have become such a nuisance that they extended the hunting season. However the situation on Lesvos is not as bad as it is on Limnos, the island north of Lesvos. There they have a plague of rabbits and for years even the hunters cannot prevent the rabbits from destroying all the vegetable gardens. Also on Limnos the hunting season has been extended.

And then our neighbour Chios, the island south of Lesvos, hit the news because of some other animal cruelty. Last summer an incident even made the international press. A student first enticed a stray dog with a piece of salami and then poured cooking oil over the poor creature and filmed everything with his camera phone. He sent it to his friends who informed the police about this cruel deed. Recently the government of the island made the national press for distributing free rat poison. Everybody knows that rat poison not only kills rats but also cats and dogs. So there must be a lot of dramas with cats and dogs on Chios.

These campaigns against rats are probably also the cause of death for tens of cats and dogs in Molyvos. I have a rat problem as well. Under our roof lives a family of rats that regularly party and cause damage in the barn by eating their way through wood walls and drawers in order to find food. They're too smart for our 14 cats and I seriously wonder when they will manage to eat their way through the roof in order to sit with us in front of the fire. I know: rat poison can be disastrous, but how do I get rid of the Rat Family? Where is the Pied Piper of Hamelin, so that poison is no longer needed?

Copyright © Smitaki 2007

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