The collaboration of ARCHELON and the National Marine Park of Zakynthos
With a view to protecting the Loggerhead sea turtles in their natural habitat, ARCHELON and the National Marine Park of Zakynthos have been working together for more than 15 years. The collaboration and mutual support has not only been rewarding with regard to the Caretta caretta, but also personally for ARCHELON volunteers, the NMPZ staff and for many tourists who had the chance to experience and learn about our work.
In the summer of 1977 on Dafni beach, Dimitris Margaritoulis first discovered that loggerhead sea turtles nested in Laganas Bay, at the southern part of Zakynthos Island. At first the founding members of ARCHELON started collecting data and monitoring the beaches until the Sea Turtle Protection Society (STPS) was founded in 1983, which became known as ARCHELON in the following years. Its aim is to study and protect the sea turtles and their habitats through fieldwork, management, lobbying, and collaboration with stakeholders, public awareness and rehabilitation. Since then ARCHELON has attracted many volunteers from all over the world who not only work hard for the project itself, but also strive for teamwork within and beyond ARCHELON.
Due to the significance of Laganas Bay as a nesting habitat, and the pressures it faces from mass tourism and development, the Greek State has attempted, since 1984, to protect it through various legislative acts. However, these were not endorsed by part of the local community and were generally poorly enforced. Following substantial pressure from domestic and international NGOs – such as ARCHELON and WWF, the Council of Europe (Bern Convention) and the European Commission and after several years of deliberations, the NMPZ was eventually established in December 1999 by a Presidential Decree in order to protect and preserve the Caretta caretta, as well as other important species of animals and plants that are found in this area. Shortly afterwards, in April 2000, the Management Agency of NMPZ was established, the very first of its kind in Greece. This marks the beginning of the two organisations working together.
In respect of monitoring and data collection, the Management Agency and ARCHELON have collaborated closely in the past years, for example by regular meetings and occasionally conducting morning surveys together. Since the main nesting beaches are located in a mass tourism area, the protection of the nesting beaches and the marine area and also public awareness are crucial. There are 9 NMPZ wardening posts on the nesting beaches as well as some information stations run by ARCHELON volunteers. This way tourists and locals are constantly informed about sea turtles, the importance of wildlife protection, the National Marine Park and our work.To ensure that volunteers are educated about the NMPZ and their work, ARCHELON welcomes a National Marine Park representative to the ARCHELON campsite for a presentation several times a season. Apart from that volunteers can visit the NMPZ’s educational centers for more information.
On a more personal note, being able to collaborate with the NMPZ and most of all being able to get to know its members, sharing knowledge and hearing their personal stories is an incredibly important part of being a volunteer at ARCHELON. Eventually communication and collaboration is key, not alone in sea turtle conservation – because if we can work together, we can live together.
Information: Anna Lamaj, Project Coordinator, Zakynthos Programm
Tel: +30 6940454976, e-mail: email@example.com