With 2,500 nests identified since late May, the Bay of Kyparissia in the southwestern Peloponnese is, for the fourth year in a row, Greece’s most important nesting site for the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta).
For the dozens of people who work tirelessly to protect the turtles and their eggs, however, this significant success is marred by the systematic destruction of nests, which is centered mainly in the area of Kalo Nero and is suspected to be related to a clash of interests with local businesses and also with prevalent opposition to measures to protect the nesting site.
But the turtles still keep coming. According to the Archelon Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, more than 2,500 nests have been dug since May this year along a 10-kilometer stretch of the Kyparissia Bay coast.
“This is the fourth year that this area has surpassed the island of Zakynthos in the number of nests,” says Polymnia Nestoridou, who is responsible for Archelon’s program in the area.
The conservationist, however, says there has been a spike in nest vandalism.
“As soon as a nest is located, it is covered in wire mesh and surround with bamboo sticks so the eggs are not dug up by foxes or other animals. We also put a small sign identifying the nest and form a corridor with bamboo sticks for the hatchlings to help them reach the sea. In the area of Kalo Nero, this year we have recorded more than 150 acts of vandalism, finding the bamboo fences destroyed and losing the locations of the nests. When the turtles hatch, they can also be disoriented by the lights in the area and head for the road rather than the sea. There they will either die, be killed by other animals, or crushed by cars. We have even noted cases where eggs have been destroyed inside the nest.”
Archelon approached the environment minister and the local police to ask for help well over a month ago, but there has been no progress in finding out who is responsible for the destruction.
“Much of the vandalism is well-targeted, in areas where there are sun loungers and umbrellas,” says Nestoridou. “When we were able to increase security, thanks to the help of volunteers, the vandalism moved to darker parts of the beach.”
The European Commission has already taken Greece to court over its failure to protect the endangered species in Kyparissia Bay, calling for a much stricter conservation framework. The Environment Ministry recently drew up a set of restrictions that should help toward this end and is now waiting for them to be enacted by a presidential decree.