Greece hosts the richest nesting habitat for endangered loggerhead turtles in the world. But rampant tourism is putting the animals at grave risk. Worse, the Greek government is refusing to protect the turtles, even as tourism skyrockets ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games.
The government withdrew funding for the National Marine Parks Organisation, the only group that is charged with protecting the fragile nesting beaches for the turtles on Zakynthos Island. The government claims it can no longer afford to support the work, because of a budget crisis. Park conservators havent been paid in months. Soon, the turtles will have no protectors at all.
Meanwhile, tourist are trampling fragile loggerhead nests, disorienting the baby turtles as they hatch and scramble for the ocean, and disrupt the breeding cycle. Ironically, Zakynthos uses images of the turtles as a tourism magnet, yet the same tourism may be destroying the best source of tourism income for the island. It isnt that Greece cant afford to protect the turtles, its that it cant afford NOT to.
The Greek government is in direct violation of the European Unions Habitat Directive, which requires it to do whatever is necessary to protect the habitat of endangered species. The government was found guilty of this violation in 2002 by the European Court, but still no meaningful enforcement effort or fine has been levied.
I heard about this crisis from reader Clive Hanley, a volunteer with Archelon - the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, who says, rightly: "If Greece cannot afford to host the Olympic Games it should not have been awarded them!" Archelons offices are just across the street from The Body Shop in Zante Town on Zakynthos.
You can support Archelon by sponsiring a baby, mother, or injured turtle.
Lets put pressure on the Greek government to live up to its legal and moral obligation to protect the loggerheads. Contact the Hellenic Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning, and Public Works via this webform or at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to protect the loggerheads of Zakynthos.