By Bejay Browne
THE PAPHOS Green Party has hit out at a five-star hotel in Latchi saying it was violating strict operation regulations which are in place to protect the nesting grounds of endangered turtles, an accusation which the hotel denies.
The Anassa hotel is set above a turtle nesting beach in Paphos, and according to Paphos Green party district secretary, Andreas Evlavis, the hotel is placing night lanterns close to turtle nests which they say is in violation of operating conditions. He described the move as a crime.
“I was in the area on the Asprokremmos beach on Monday evening, a bit further up from the hotel to watch the sunset. I couldn’t believe that as the sun went down all of these lights appeared. This is a very sensitive time as the turtles are hatching and they need to make their way to the sea.”
However, Natasha Michaelides of the Thanos Hotel group, which own and operate the Anassa hotel said that they are always careful about following stipulations and that there are no lights on the beach.
“When the hotel was built we were given a special manual by the relevant ministry which told us what to do concerning the turtles and we are very careful to follow this. We don’t light the beach and it is pitch black.”
But she added that when the hotel has an event, dimly lit lanterns are placed on the tables so that guests may see what they are eating.
“We are always open to discussion if environmentalists think that we can be better,” she said.
The Asprokremmos area of Paphos is a popular nesting site for turtles which are a protected as they face extinction. Both the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) and the Loggerhead Turtle (Caretta caretta) and their eggs have been protected in Cyprus since 1971.
Evlavis said that the Green Party was opposed to the building of a hotel in the area, but that it had been granted all the necessary permissions, however, he added, strict rules are in place to ensure there is no light.
“One of the conditions of the hotel is that there are no lights on the beach, what they are doing is against the law and a crime. Especially now when the turtle eggs are hatching.”
When turtles are hatched, they immediately head for the closest light source. In ideal conditions, they make for the sea as they are meant to do, drawn by the reflection of the moon and the stars. Any artificial light source causes them to become disoriented, he said.
Evlavis noted that there are around 20-30 nests in the area and that no-one seem to care about the turtles.
“This year, I believe there are more nests than last year and the turtles will become confused by the light. Instead of heading towards the sea they will head inland and perish.”
He said that the hotel’s lanterns and sunbeds and umbrellas were within walking distance of a number of turtle nests.
Michaelides said: “We have had sunbeds and umbrellas in the same place for the last 18 years and we have permission to do that. We aren’t doing anything illegal. The nests are covered and quite a few metres away. We are not doing anything to harm the turtles and are following the manual given to us on how to operate correctly, concerning the turtles.”
Most of the Akamas Peninsula, where Asprokremmos beach is located, is in the Natura 2000 network, an EU-wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive. If beaches not within the Natura network are found to have turtle nests they are also protected.
Evlavis said: “What will the government or the local authorities do to finally stop these illegalities which seems to be tolerated? The idea of “people first, then the turtles” must finally be stopped. The protection of this species is our obligation, especially for those that advertise the presence of turtles in their area, to attract visitors.”