THESSALONIKI – Visitors to the restored settlement of Nymphaio in Florina, northern Greece, will now be able to see deer in their natural habitat. The authorities recently released the first five of these graceful animals into the Wildlife and Recreation Park of the northern region, in an attempt to enrich the reserve’s fauna. The first batch of deer comprise four does and one buck that have been brought from Finland via a specialized breeding farm in Trikala. These deer are designed to survive in the 1,350-meter-altitude park in harmony with the existing flora and fauna. The animals are 2 years old and are at a mature stage in their reproductive cycles. Authorities estimate that the first fawns will be born around June 2006, after which the community of Nymphaio plans to release the young deer into the wild, where they can contribute to increasing the region’s deer population. The operation of transporting and releasing the five deer is part of a strategic program initiated by the community of Nymphaio, explained community president Nikolaos Mertzos. Open next month Launched in 1995, the program, which is being organized with the cooperation of the European Union, aims to protect and promote the rich cultural heritage and natural environment of the region, using modern methods and bringing in much-needed revenue that will help revive the community as a whole. Further plans The Nymphaio Wildlife and Recreation Park, which will be open to the public and free of charge as of next month, comprises 180 hectares of woods and alpine lakes. It has paved footpaths leading to scenic vistas of the surrounding area – from Mount Olympus to the mountain ranges of Grammos, Vermio and Kaimaktsalan. The park also has comfortable shelters where visitors can rest and take in the views, the many springs and an array of beautiful plants. The park’s animals are provided with shelter for the winter and feeding and watering stations, while there is also a park ranger watching out for their safety. Upcoming plans for the park also include the construction of an artificial lake (the tender for which is expected to be announced later this month), at an altitude of 1,500 meters. The area is already famous for the Arcturos Sanctuary, which was set up in 1993 to care for «dancing» bears rescued from their captors, and another one for wolves at Agrapidia off the main road to the town of Kastoria.