The small island which had the nerve to say no to hunting
An island of 68 square kilometers with a permanent population of 540 inhabitants recently sought a ban on hunting on its territory, which was granted by Deputy Minister of Agriculture Fotis Hadzimichalis, at any rate for this year. According to Tassos Aliferis, mayor of Tilos and one of those spearheading the campaign for a ban on hunting on the island, hunting is backed by many economic interests and that is why it is not banned in many areas where it should be. The problem is huge, especially on small islands. For the inhabitants of Tilos, tourism is the only possible economic activity. Over the past few years, we have developed ecotourism due to the rich fauna on the island – we’re lucky enough to have water. We lengthened the tourist period in this way and we are virtually full until October. The only thing we can sell to the tourists is the environment and we’re fighting to improve it. Three thousand visitors to Tilos, on top of the island’s inhabitants, voted by e-mail against the opening of the hunting season. Hunting has been banned for the past seven years. The issue was raised by the the Forestry Department of the Dodecanese with the the regional head of the southern Aegean, Panayiotis Saltouros. Aliferis attributes the move to pressure by hunters, who include influential persons in their number. The fauna and flora have been recorded in a study which has been submitted to the Agriculture and Environment ministries. It demonstrates how destructive hunting is of the environment. In an area so small, even birds that are not in the hunters’ sights are put at risk. Bonelli’s eagle is a rare bird of prey which needs a range of 35-40 square kilometers in order to survive. You can imagine what would happen if hunting was allowed on Tilos, said Aliferis. Never on a Saturday? The fire in July 2000 burned down a third of Samos. The island of 432 square kilometers loses a large part of its flora every year. However, every fire does not leave behind it only burnt trees and plants but wipes out the fauna as well. For this reason, hunting was forbidden on the island last year. This year, however, hunters are able to hunt for game. Hunting was allowed without an environmental study being carried out, as enjoined by the Council of State after a disaster, said Eva Patrinou, from a citizens’ environment action group on Samos. The lifting of the ban was decided by the prefectural council and so now, hunters can hunt freely in the areas allowed. But bans are often not complied with. According to forestry official Yiannis Gerontis, even though hunting is forbidden on half the island in order to protect fauna, the president of the hunters’ society himself is being sued for poaching. In any case, the seven forest wardens in the Samos prefecture, which includes the islands of Icaria and Fournoi, are insufficient. Especially on eastern Samos, where we have the greatest problems, there is a distinct shortage of personnel. However, we are trying to take measures to protect the fauna of the island. We set the start of the hunting season on September 15, and on Saturday, hunting rabbits and partridges is not allowed, though hunting other species is. Since there are no wardens, who can be sure of what, finally, the rifle is pointed at? In addition, many birds that are rearing their young during that period are frightened by the sound of shots.