Bird Life Cyprus has sounded a warning over the threat from development in the Akrotiri Peninsula-Episkopi Cliffs area –one of Cyprus’ most important bird sites.
In an article on its website, the NGO says that this extensive site comprises the largest complex of wetlands on the island, as well as a mosaic of coastal scrub, dunes, agricultural areas and impressive coastal cliffs that mesh together to form a unique and complex landscape. “It is, in fact, one of the most species-rich and important areas of the island for birds and other wildlife and a top destination for any nature lover,” it added.
This area is the most important wetland important bird area (IBA) in Cyprus with 300 recorded bird species. Its diversity and extent support great congregations of waterbirds in winter and spring and it supports important populations of many of the island’s key breeding species. Up to 20,000 birds may gather at Akrotiri Salt Lake at any one time. It also it is the best site in Europe to catch sight of the Demoiselle Cranes in late August, the NGO said.
In addition, the area is a nesting site for the Loggerhead and Green turtles, while the partly submerged sea caves at Akrotiri cliffs provide one of the last remaining breeding refuges of the Εendangered Mediterranean Monk Seal on the island, as well as important roosting sites for bat species.
Yet, this natural habitat is under pressures for development, both military and civilian, including tourist developments, roads, renewable energy infrastructure and many others.
“The latest threat for this site is the huge Zakaki casino development that is to be built to the north east of the peninsula. Sadly, this development is going ahead, fast tracked with the ‘blessings’ of the Cyprus government, without any proper assessment being done on the impacts on the environment and the wildlife,” Bird Life said.
The NGO spoke of a very worrying frantic race for development. A golf resort next to the casino has been given the green light. South of that, the Electricity Authority of Cyprus is proposing 20MW photovoltaic park while to the east, restaurants along the Lady’s Mile beachfront are constantly expanding their parking spaces by illegally destroying the coastal sand dunes, it added
“Additional threats include the disturbance by visitors (walking, dog walkers, vehicles), off-road driving and opportunistic rallying, predation by feral cats, stray dogs and natural predators, illegal shooting and trapping, the extensive antenna installations and supporting guy wires (serious collision risk for migrating and breeding birds) and the illegal dumping of rubbish,” Bird Life Cyprus said.