One thought on “Many deaths in Greek forest fires; caused by speculators?

  1. Greece fears fires hit rare animals and plants
    31 Aug 2007 15:43:24 GMT
    Source: Reuters

    By Robin Pomeroy

    ATHENS, Aug 31 (Reuters) – The thousands of Greek villagers forced to escape flames that raged across Greece over the last week were not the only ones on the run.

    Animals also fled for their lives and conservationists fear that, like the 63 human victims of the worst forest fires in memory, many of them did not make it to safety.

    Vast tracts of forest have been destroyed by the blazes, reducing living space and hunting grounds for wildlife and creating longer-term environmental hazards.

    “We don’t know what’s happened to the golden jackals, whether they died or had a chance to get away,” said Dimitris Karavellas of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Greece.

    Although not an endangered species globally, the jackals, with their reddish-yellow fur, were a key part of the fauna in the rugged mountains of the Peloponnese peninsula, a unique eco-system which will take years to recover from the fires.

    The chunk of southern Greece, which is effectively an island as it is cut from the mainland by the Corinth canal, contains some of Greece’s most valued natural landscapes.

    “It’s not totally burned, but because space there is restricted, for animals like foxes and rabbits, there is nowhere for them to go,” said Greenpeace’s Nikos Charalambides.

    With some fires still burning and the immediate priorities restoring power and housing thousands of homeless, no one has yet assessed the extent of the damage, but conservationists said they feared some rare species might have been wiped out.

    “A big part of Mount Taygetos has burned,” Charalambides said, referring to the Peloponnese mountain range which rises to 2,404 metres (7,887 ft) above sea level.

    “It’s seen as one of the jewels, one of our most important forest areas and it has 21 endemic species of plants which are not found anywhere else in the world.”

    Vast swathes of pine forest, home to birds of prey and wild boar were also razed by the flames. That is not just bad news for the animals who lived there, but might also pose an on-going environmental risk.

    Kalamata, a city which gave its name to the dark olives which remain an agricultural staple of the region, could be at risk of flooding now that the vegetation which once absorbed rainwater in the nearby mountains has gone, said Charalambides.

    The area might also suffer changes to its local micro-climate, he said.

    “The green used to cool the area and spread humidity, now there’s just a black box which will absorb heat by day and let it out at night, making life tougher for people who live there.”

    For the wildlife, the one good news from the fires is that local authorities have banned hunting in what is usually peak season in order to spare the surviving creatures any further carnage.

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