04/02/2019

The Koulouris family with two generations of “turtlers” in Zakynthos

ANTONIS, regular “turtler” from 1982 to 1990, wrote:

‘Cars fascinated me since I was a little boy. My dream was to become a mechanical engineer, to study how cars work and make them better. By 17, I knew everything about CITROEN cars and my favorite model was 2CV. As my grades did not allow me to study engineering back then, I ended up studying Biology in the University of Thessaloniki. It was not my first choice, but I made the effort, which brought me an awareness of environmental issues and an interest in Mediterranean ecosystems.

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Through this path I started doubting the worship of technological developments. By 20, I bought my first 2CV, an anti-automobile, and I joined ARCHELON’s project in Zakynthos as volunteer. Together with fellow volunteers Telis Kotitsas and Nikos Mekesis, we spent these summers of the 80’s with light minds, love for nature & the sea turtles and the dream of a Marine Park in Laganas. Our field work was on the nesting beaches, mostly Sekania, where we monitored the sea turtle population and protected the nests. We met many others, Greek and foreign volunteers, all of them environmentally aware at an international level.

Our adventures with the boat, the locals, my 2CV, the sea turtles, the volunteers became the bed time stories for my daughter Margarita and my son Themistocles. I was telling them these stories every single night.’

MARGARITA, his daughter, wrote

‘Sea turtles have been a part of my life for as long as I remember myself. The stories my father was telling us about Zakynthos made the sea turtles special and exciting to me. Our favorite bed time story was “Little Caretta caretta and the old Volkswagen” which describes in the simplest of ways what is happening in the bay of Laganas. Our mother, who is a school teacher, always tried- and still does- to get her pupils engaged with these magnificent animals informing about the threats to their survival. We were very lucky, my brother and I, to have been exposed to an awareness on environmental issues at such an early age. None of us has followed up with studies on Biology, but we do care about nature.

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Last summer, at the age of 21, I decided to make a new step in discovering the world and myself. I volunteered in ARCHELON’s project in Zakynthos, all by myself, without a friend or acquaintance. In this project, I have lived three unforgettable weeks, maybe the most fulfilling of my life so far. Time was too short to get the whole experience, however, I got a taste from every aspect of the project, from public awareness to nesting beach protection, up to meeting the turtles in Sekania.

I can say with certainty that the work of volunteers is crucial for the success of nesting every summer and the conservation of the species as a whole. As for me, Margarita? Heat, fatigue, cold water in the shower or whatever else seemed to bother me just disappeared when the feeling emerged: the feeling that appears when you see a female turtle laying its eggs or a hatchling reaching the sea. I felt as part of a process of creation that I could never imagine before. I made real friends who live at the other end of the world and I cannot wait to meet them again next summer, same place.

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I had the opportunity to experience the reality of my childhood’s bed time stories, as told by my father, and what this means to me cannot be described in words.‘

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