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Public urged to respect salt lake habitat

Larnaca Municipality on Tuesday urged members of the public to show respect for the protection of the ecosystem of the town’s salt lake after it emerged that many visitors walk on the lake and disturb birds living there.

Following checks by the Game and Fauna service, the environment department and municipal employees, it was discovered that visitors enter the habitat and disturb birds, the municipality said in a written statement.

Visitors wishing to observe the birds living in the habitat or photograph them, it said, “are urged to use the bird watch towers located on the perimeter of the salt lakes, and remain on the pedestrian pavement and nature trail.

“The entrance of vehicles and of pedestrians in the habitat which is within the protected area is forbidden,” it said, adding that visitors must always keep to the trails, resting areas and watch towers.

“The Larnaca Municipality calls for public cooperation to protect this unique wetland, as the continuing nuisance of birds from human presence can cause the species to move, resulting in population decline due to harassment during their feeding and rest.”

The Larnaca salt lake, which is a complex of four salt lakes covering a surface area of 2,2 square kilometres, is considered as one of the most important wetlands of Cyprus. It has been declared a Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance site, and an EU Natura 2000 site.

The problem of visitors walking and even driving onto the salt lake, was discussed last month with Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis during his visit in Larnaca. The minister said that this issue was “really troublesome.” On some occasions the intervention of the fire service was required to help people out of the lake.

Kadis said he has given instructions for the collection of information about these problems to form an action plan to address them “but also to further facilitate the public’s contact with this important ecosystem.”

He had also said that the government would prepare a comprehensive action plan on the management of the ecosystem of the salt lake.

The project would also include facilitating the access of visitors to the area in a way that respects the environment and the importance of the salt lake, Kadis had said.

According to the Larnaca Tourism Board, the dark red algae which grows in the salt lake is the basis of the food chain, as the small shrimp in the lake feed on it. In turn, the shrimp is food not only for the flamingos, but also other migratory birds, which total more than 80 species. All aquatic birds that visit the salt lake reproduce in the area, it said.

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