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Zante tourists help kill off turtles

- by Joe Mason

Tourists help scare off nesting turtles.

Holiday tourists on Zante are helping to kill off one of the world's rarest turtles. Conservation experts warn that tourist turtle-viewing trips on Zante pleasure boats are threatening the future of the endangered caretta caretta or Mediterranean loggerhead sea turtle. The war between conservationists and the tourism industry has been going on for years in Zante's Laganas Bay.

The area is a hugely popular holiday hotspot and also one of the main breeding grounds for the turtle.

Glass bottomed turtle viewing trips are very popular with visiting holidaymakers, but not for the turtles themselves.

The caretta caretta is normally shy and easily disturbed, especially during the egg laying season. But turtles arrive in Laganas Bay to queues of pleasure boats circling the waters.

Pleasure boats are moored along the coastline of the islet of Marathonisi, a major turtle nesting site, from 10am to 6pm every day as tourist pay to get a glimpse of the shy creatures.

Tourists appear unaware of the distress they cause among the rare turtles as they snap their cameras as boats chase them through the water.

The director of the conservation group WWF Hellas, Dimitris Karavellas, blames the problem on funding cuts which have prevented the recruitment of guards for the nesting site.

Environment Minister Yiannis Maniatis insisted that there was no problem with funding but suggested that the protection program had yet to get started.

The Greek government has been under fire for years from the European Commission for its failure to protect the turtles and their nesting sites from commercial exploitation.

Turtle nests in the Laganas Bay resort of Kalamaki have been used as a rubbish dump while hotel owners have bulldozed nesting sites to make way for sunbeds.