Bird paradise in the Aegean

© Alfred Limbrunner
Eleonora's Falcons can be observed on Tilos © Alfred Limbrunner

“A star favoured by the sea, an island in the Aegean with 19 beaches, 12 mountains, 7 Byzantine castles, a monastery and 200 churches. A cave full of natural treasures. A paradise inviting you to unforgettable holidays” - this is how the island is promoted on the cover of the map of Tilos published jointly by EuroNatur and the Tilos Park Association (TPA).

An insider tip for nature lovers

The Greek island of Tilos captivates the visitor above all with the variety of the landscape and large number of rare animal and plant species. It lies between Rhodos and Kos in the south-east of the Aegean about 20 kilometres from the Turkish coast and has so far been spared mass tourism. Instead rare birds such as Bonelli's Eagle, Eleonora's Falcon, Audoin's Gull and the European Roller took up their residence on the island. There are as yet no specialized studies of the marine fauna of Tilos. But there are reports from islanders according to which several varieties of dolphin and even some Mediterranean Monk Seals – under threat of extinction - live off its coasts.

A clear “No” to bird hunting

Tilos proves that for bird protection it really makes sense to ban hunting completely. Since 1993 there has been a hunting ban for the whole island. The inhabitants have enforced it themselves and despite massive pressure from the hunting lobby outside Tilos they have maintained it. In the old days whole ferries packed with hunters used to come over to the island and they decimated the natural riches of the island almost unimpeded by controls. Over time the island has become more and more what it once was: a kind of Garden of Eden for migratory birds. Among these are breeding birds from Germany such as Pirol, Red-backed Shrike, Marsh Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. EuroNatur honoured the community of Tilos with the EuroNatur Prize 2009 in recognition of their exemplary protection of migratory birds.

Goats are destroying biodiversity

The grazing of goats on Tilos represents a threat to the flora and fauna of the island. They graze whole biotopes bare. The subsequent soil erosion destroys valuable biotopes for plants, birds and other animals. True, there are first steps being taken to address the problem but the population of goats on Tilos is still too high.

EuroNatur is supporting the Tilos Park Association in...

  • pushing for the designation of the entire island of Tilos including the 16 tiny uninhabited islands and sea area within 100 metres of the coastline as a Nature Park. This would have the effect of turning the present, time-limited hunting ban on the island into a permanent ban.
  • working on environmental education and encouraging people's sensitivity to the island's natural resources (information boards, natural history Nature Trail guides, hiking maps etc.) The goal is to further the nature-friendly development of Tilos by means of a gentle form of nature tourism. If the protection of nature offers the inhabitants of the island economic perspectives they will also commit to long-term nature conservation.
  • developing teaching materials for school-children to raise the children's awareness of the natural treasures of the island of Tilos at a young age.

A selection of important successes:

  • Thanks to the untiring efforts of TPA, whose work is supported by EuroNatur, bird populations have developed very gratifyingly in the last few years.
  • In awarding of the EuroNatur Prize 2009 to the Community of Tilos EuroNatur showed its appreciation of the community's successful nature conservation work and gave encouragement to continue.
  • The hunting ban on Tilos is the basis for creating a socially responsible form of tourism that is compatible with nature and which offers an important source of income for the inhabitants of the island the whole year round.
  • Tilos is a striking example of how nature tourism and birdwatching can offer an alternative to bird hunting. The island is developing a reputation as a place of unspoilt nature and a paradise for migrating birds and this is bringing more tourists to Tilos. A development for which EuroNatur and its partners are working in other project areas, too, above all in the Balkans.
  • Raising awareness of the need for conservation work can take many forms: together with TPA EuroNatur has published a map of Tilos which not only provides comprehensive information on the most important places on the island and their particular features but also describes a selection of foot paths through the bird paradise we recommend. The Tilos map is available at the information centre. With the proceeds further nature conservation measures can then be funded. Information boards draw visitors' attention from the moment of their arrival in Livadia harbour to the outstanding points of wildlife interest and to the island's need of conservation.

Partner: Tilos Park Association (TPA)

Sponsors: EuroNatur donors and sponsors

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