Cyprus Wildlife Society

Protection of marine turtles and their habitat

Andreas Demetropoulos and Myroula Hadjichristophorou have been working for 35 years to protect the two endangered marine turtle species that nest in Cyprus. As marine biologists and former members of the Department of Fisheries, they helped set up the national Turtle Conservation Project, and now as members of the Cyprus Wildlife Society they continue to devote much of their time to its work.

Two species of marine turtles breed on the beaches of Cyprus: the green turtle and the loggerhead turtle. Overexploitation of turtles in the eastern Mediterranean once threatened these species with extinction. Andreas and Myroula’s research showed that loggerhead turtles nest mainly on the Chrysochou Bay beaches on the west coast, with both green and loggerhead turtles nesting on beaches further down the coast in the Lara/Toxeftra area.

Before the conservation project began, more than 80% of the nests in these areas had been destroyed by foxes. In 1978 the Department of Fisheries launched the conservation project for turtles, and in 1989 the Lara/Toxeftra Turtle Reserve was launched. Turtles need pristine areas to nest and so protecting the beach from the harmful impacts of human activity was a priority.

Andreas and Myroula are still responsible for implementing the Turtle Conservation Project, which involves protecting turtles and their habitats and nests on all nesting beaches. Thanks to nest protection, the number of small turtles reaching the sea is much higher than it used to be, and is still increasing. Noticeable improvements began around 20-25 years after nest protection started, when the baby turtles started to mature. From about 300 nests a year between the 1980s and 2006, nesting increased to reach 1,200 nests in 2013 and 2014. However, even these nest numbers are unsatisfactory, and so with the aim of boosting them further Demetropoulos and Myroula are continuing their tireless devotion to turtle conservation.

“Beaches of the Mediterranean are under most pressure from tourism, and everything that goes with it. And I think that in the Mediterranean, the biotopes, the coastal zone in general, are under the biggest pressure, and with this kind of project we are able to save the species, and save the valuable coastal zone in the same time.”ANDREAS DEMETROPOULOS & MYROULA HADJICHRISTOPHOROU

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