Cyprus Mail

Yeronisos digs are destroying rare plant, official warns

The rare Cistanche phelypaea

The forestry department raised the alarm on Monday over the need to preserve a rare plant on the islet of Yeronisos off Paphos, saying it is close to extinction in Cyprus.

The service sent a letter to the antiquities department and Peyia municipality asking for their cooperation in protecting Cistanche phelypaea from extinction, as the archaeological excavations that have been taking place on the island over the past 15 years have seriously affected its growth.

The head of the forestry department, Takis Papachristoforou, said in the letter that Yeronisos islet and the coastal zone adjoining the forest land of Akamas has been declared a National Forest Park and falls within the EU Natura 2000 network as being an important habitat for many species of flora and bird fauna.

The island is also home to a “critically endangered plant of the Red Data Book of the Flora of Cyprus, Cistanche phelypaea,” Papachristoforou said. Two forestry department officials who visited the island at the beginning of the month discovered that the plant population is extremely small and is in danger of extinction in Cyprus, he said.

He added that the excavations that have been taking place there the last 15 years have affected the population of the plant “irreversibly”.

The forestry department called on the head of the antiquities department to inform them of future excavations on the island so that they can be informed of which areas must not be disturbed for better viability of the plant.

On behalf of the Municipality of Peyia, municipal councillor Andreas Christodoulou, told the Cyprus News Agency that a study should be carried out for Yeronisos, as will be done for the Peyia coastline, as part of the local plan.

After the study is completed, he said, excavations carried out on the island ought to be made in such a way as not to destroy the habitat of the area.

Yeronisos also known as ‘Holy Island’, has been uninhabited since the 15th century, but recent excavations have revealed it once held a sanctuary dedicated to Apollo in the late Hellenistic period.

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