THESSALONIKI – Illegal logging has decimated the forests along the banks of the Axios River in recent years, depriving rare birds of one of their nesting habitats. The reduction in the size of the riverside forest, which has been mapped on both sides of the Athens-Thessaloniki highway, as well as the other problems that have emerged in the largest wetland in northern Greece, has led the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Greece to step in. In cooperation with the Axios Wetland Information Center, the WWF has planned a series of activities to highlight the value of the river delta and draw attention to its problems. One of these activities is a program of visits to the protected area. Angelos Adamidis, head of WWF’s volunteers and events program, said it was time residents of nearby Thessaloniki got to know the area and became involved in protecting its uniqueness. WWF was pleasantly surprised when the first Sunday attracted double the expected number of visitors. Adamidis said the goal was not to turn the delta into a tourist attraction and disturb the ecosystem. However, Sunday visits, scheduled to last until May, will permit the planting of willows, poplars and other appropriate trees for riverbanks and the recording of human activities, illegal and otherwise. The Axios, which Homer described as a broad, deep river, is an internationally recognized wetland (included in the Ramsar treaty). It has a wealth of fauna and flora, including a herd of wild horses, and is home to about 215 bird species, 60 of them rare. But the river water is being polluted by industries in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, illegal construction and poaching; and its beauty is marred by the dumping of garbage. The distribution and sale of medicines and organic products, including herbal teas which contain the natural extract illicium verum (or badiane chine) has been banned, following yesterday’s decision by the National Pharmaceutical Organization (EOF) which said the extract could contain a poisonous substance known as illicium anisatum (badiane japon ) which provokes spasms in babies and children.