By Evie Andreou
THE Green Party has warned that a dispute over Paralimni lake is endangering the rare non-venomous grass snake natrix-natrix cypriaca.
The lake is part of the NATURA 2000 network, and the government is obliged by the EU to protect the snake.
The land around the lake was expropriated but the compensation offered was in their view too low, and although they accepted it, they appealed to the courts to receive market value.
The dispute between land owners and the government is ongoing and the lake’s ownership status was still pending until May 27 when the government requisition order expired and the land reverted back to its original proprietors, leaving uncertain the future of the grass snake’s habitat.
The European Court of Justice has given the state time to sort out the lake’s ownership but Cyprus is risks paying million in fines for not taking the necessary measures to protect the grass snake.
Hans-Jorg Wiedl the reptile expert who rediscovered the grass snake after it was thought to be extinct for 40 years and who has been lobbying authorities for 25 years expressed his anger that the snake now faces extinction.
“For 25 years I’ve been asking everyone to help me breed the snake but no-one showed any interest,” he said.
When asked whether it was now too late, he said he would start tomorrow if given the funds and that he would do anything to save the snake. “Why won’t they give me the chance”?
In order to avoid the fine and avoid the extinction of natrix-natrix cypriaca, the Green Party is urging the government to reimburse the landowners at a better rate and reinstate the lake’s natural habitat.
The landowners can now cultivate the land and there are even discussions on the re-opening of a motocross track in the area.
Described as the most endangered reptile in Cyprus, the natrix natrix cypriaca can be found near permanent or quasi permanent water bodies and its main threat is the destruction of suitable habitats and its persecution. It can be found in Paralimni lake and the Xyliatos dam.