In a long-abandoned village within the UN buffer zone that divides Cyprus, an endangered curly-horned wild sheep presents hope not just for wildlife however that bitter ethnic divisions may slowly be healed.
The mouflon, an impressive breed endemic to the Mediterranean island, is one in all many species flourishing within the no-man’s-land created when inter-communal strife sliced Cyprus in two within the Nineteen Sixties.
“Without human influence, the wildlife and vegetation have flourished,” stated Salih Gucel, director of the Institute of Environmental Sciences at Near East University within the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.
“It is like stepping back in time to what our grandparents would have seen 100 years ago,” Gucel stated, after recognizing an orchid rising amid the tumbled ruins of a farmhouse within the village of Varisha, some 55 kilometres (35 miles) west of the capital Nicosia.
Cyprus has been break up since 1974 when Turkish forces occupied the northern a part of the island in response to a Greek-sponsored navy coup.
The buffer zone covers some three % of the island, is 180 kilometres (112 miles) lengthy and as much as eight kilometres (5 miles) vast.
Rare species ‘haven’
Many name it the “dead zone”, a tragic reminder of a frozen battle the place bullet-riddled buildings crumble again into the dust.
Yet it’s removed from empty.
Farmers with permits can enter, whereas United Nations peacekeepers patrol the road, monitoring troopers, looking forward to smugglers or for refugees hoping to cross.
But it has additionally turn out to be a “haven” for rare plants and animals, a “wildlife corridor” linking in any other case fragmented environments proper throughout the island, stated ecologist Iris Charalambidou, from the University of Nicosia.
“It’s an area where species can escape intensive human activity,” Charalambidou stated, noting that there have been some 200-300 mouflon within the Variseia space alone, a tenth of the estimated 3,000 inhabitants.
“These are areas where biodiversity flourishes… core populations of species that, when populations become larger, disperse to other areas.”
Warily watching the uncommon human guests, a pair of mouflon peer by an overgrown olive grove, turning tail lengthy earlier than wildlife specialists—accompanied by Argentinian troops of the United Nations peacekeeping power—come shut.
The mouflon, a nationwide image as soon as hunted to the brink of extinction, shouldn’t be the one species thriving right here.
Charalambidou stated there have been additionally threatened crops together with orchids in addition to uncommon reptiles and endangered mammals such because the Cyprus spiny mouse.
The specialists stated it exhibits how an embattled surroundings can get well if given an opportunity.
“When human activity is not so intense in a certain area, you see that nature recovers,” stated Charalambidou, a Greek Cypriot from the government-controlled south of the island.
Gucel echoes her feedback. “Outside the buffer zone, herbicides have been used… and orchids are picked or the bulbs dug up,” he stated.
While the respective political leaders stay at loggerheads, the shared wildlife of the island has helped plant the seed of cooperation between the 2 sides.
“The political situation on the island remains really difficult,” stated Aleem Siddique, spokesman for the UN peacekeeping power in Cyprus.
“But there is still a lot of peace building work that can be done at the grassroots level.”
That has included a UN-backed venture figuring out “biodiversity hotspots” contained in the buffer zone, bringing scientists from the 2 communities collectively.
“One of the aims of our project was to get people who are interested in the environment in both communities to collaborate with each other,” Gucel stated.
“We have a common goal and a standard curiosity,” stated Charalambidou, peering at yellow flowers poking by coils of rusting barbed wire.
For many islanders, there’s little contact with these from the opposite aspect, the 2 communities apparently more and more set on completely different paths and separate futures.
“The more that we can get the two communities working together, the more that we can get them to meet on common issues of concern, and that will benefit not only the environment but also the peace process,” Siddique stated.
In Cyprus, the historical past of division is not possible to disregard. On the hilltops above Variseia, troopers in fortified watchtowers eye one another throughout the valley.
Below, Gucel and Charalambidou hint a mouflon monitor by a tangled almond orchard.
“People who work in environmental issues are usually so passionate about it that when they meet, they talk about that, and don’t bother talking about other issues,” Charalambidou stated. “It unites people.”
© 2022 AFP
Wildlife rebounds in divided Cyprus ‘lifeless zone’ (2022, February 2)
retrieved 2 February 2022
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