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Cyprus a key wintering habitat for aquatic birds

By Nikolaos Prakas

Protection of wetland areas for the thousands of aquatic birds from about 61 different species, which flock to Cyprus every winter, was called for by BirdLife Cyprus’ executive director, Dr Clairie Papazoglou to mark International Wetlands Day.

“International Wetlands Day, with the help of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, stands as a reminder on the importance and vulnerability of wetlands everywhere, and the urgent need for conservation and preservation of them,” said Papazoglou.

She added that Cyprus was no exception to the conservation of wetlands, and that globally a staggering 64 per cent of wetlands had disappeared since 1990 all around the world, causing scarcity in regions that naturally filter and replenish the water supply, act as sponges against floods and drought, protect coastal areas, store carbon, and contain fish and rice fields to feed billions.

From January 16-18, 2015, BirdLife Cyprus organised the population count of aquatic birds in 52 areas in order to monitor numbers on the health and size of various populations of aquatic birds.

BirdLife finished its winter calculations on the wetland regions, adding, “We are able to say that we have counted over 11,000 aquatic birds, 61 different species, including large numbers of Flamingos (over 3,000), Garnagey (over 2,000) and Gulls (over 1,300).”

The report also notes the importance of Cyprus’ wetlands as a winter destination for migrating aquatic birds, providing ample space for them to stay in such as: The salt lakes of Larnaca and Akrotiri, the wetlands in Famagusta, Oroklini Lake, and even the man-made dams at Kouklia and Achna.

The top locations noted in the report are the salt lake in Larnaca, coming in with the highest number of aquatic birds at more than 3,700, and the lake in Oroklini with 19 different species.

Papazoglou added that many wetland areas in Cyprus had been included in the European Union’s preservation network called Natura 2000, as protected areas, and that the example being set at the lake in Oroklini was one of the best in the last three years.

With the funding of the EU LIFE program, which is used to pay for environmental programmes, Oroklini Lake a once endangered wetland area has become one of the best preserved. “The example of Oroklini, a wetland of Natura 2000, which is now flooded with birds and tourists, shows how much can be achieved in a short period of time, under good supervision,” she said.

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