Two hooded illegal hunters riding an un-plated light vehicle led a patrol of Sidirokastro Forestry officers and Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS) members on a wild chase at Lake Kerkini National Park on Saturday, 11 January 2014. The two men were hunting ducks in a Wildlife Refuge and, after they refused to pull over, they attacked the patrol.

The incident, although not common in the area, nevertheless is quite alarming. Despite the intensive safeguarding of the National Park by the Lake Kerkini Management Authority, the Sidirokastro Forestry Office and the Game Warden Association, which has combatted to a great extent the illegal hunting on the site, there are still people who insist on degrading its wealth of bird species. It is worth noting that Lake Kerkini National Park is a world famous ecotourism destination for thousands of visitors who are the pillar of the local economy. Unfortunately, in 2007 a Lesser White-fronted Goose was killed within the Wildlife Refuge, and the killer remains unidentified, although it is known that Kerkini is one of the safest wetlands in the world, and the wintering grounds of the few Lesser White-fronted Goose surviving pairs in Europe.

The 01.10.2014 incident points to the need for improved safeguarding of the Greek protected areas, which according to the European Committee is a major problem for their management. The HOS and the Greek Forest Service have proved that EU co-funded projects, such as the current EU LIFE+ Project for the protection of the Lesser White-fronted Goose [1], show methods for the mitigation of the problem, providing the necessary financial resources for fuels, equipment and compensation for the Greek Forest Service officers who work after hours, i.e. when the illegal hunting activities usually take place.

The Sidirokastro Forestry Office will file a court case, while the Police have already launched an investigation in order to identify the two offenders. “This illegal hunting incident proves that some of our fellow citizens keep on demonstrating reprehensible and condemned behaviors at the expense of natural environment. The Forestry Office, by virtue of the authority vested in them, with resources and means provided by the Greek State, exercise preventive and punitive control, protecting the unique ecosystems of the area. With the implementation of the safeguarding plan, in the context of the EU Lesser White-fronted Goose LIFE+ Project, and the participation of the Sidirokastro Forestry officers, monitoring of the protected areas are intensified, illegal activities and punishable actions are prevented and suppressed, while the preservation of valuable aquatic populations of the Kerkini wetland is vitally strengthened”, says Sidirokastro Forestry Deputy in Chief, Stelios Gaidartzis.

Safeguarding actions in Northern Greece wetlands that are important for the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Lake Kerkini, Lake Ismarida and Evros River) are funded by the EU LIFE+ Project “Safeguarding the Lesser White-fronted Goose Fennoscandian Population in Key Wintering and Staging Sites Within the European Flyway” (LIFE10 NAT/GR/000638). The Project is implemented by the HOS during 2011-2016, in cooperation with the Forest Research Institute – Hellenic Agricultural Organization (HAO) DIMITER, the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB), the Hortobágy National Park Directorate (Hungary), the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (UNEP/AEWA) Secretariat, the WWF Finland and the Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services (Finland). The implementation of the Project is co-funded by the European Committee and the Norwegian Directorate for Nature Management.

For more information:
Sidirokastro Forestry Office: +30 23230 22383
Hellenic Ornithological Society: Ms. Manolia Vougioukalou: +30 210 8228704

Illegal Hunters Back at the Scene of the Crime… Pavlos

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