FROM THE THIRD EDITION:
THREE YEARS LATER ……
While writing these lines I struggle to accept that three whole years have passed since my book was first published, in May 1994. It seems as if it were only months ago ……
During those years, other commitments have kept me from visiting Dadia as often as I would have liked, I have, however, kept track of all developments. Therefore, in lieu of an introduction to this third edition, I would like to present the latest information on the birds of prey and conservation issues in the area.
Under the protection scheme, Black Vultures are steadily increasing their numbers. There are now 20 breeding pairs and the total population approaches 100 individuals. In contrast the Griffon Vultures nesting on the cliff faces near Kapsalo have declined dramatically, from 11 pairs in 1994 to only one pair in 1995, three pairs in 1996 and one pair in 1997. The maximum number of Griffon Vultures visiting the feeding area on the other hand, has remained fairly stable during those years, around 50-60 birds, the highest count being 62 on 1995. The continued presence of Griffon Vultures in large numbers may indicate widespread scattering of the breeding pairs throughout the area, however no alternative nesting sites have been located up to date. Similar trends, that is a slow increase over a period of a few years and then rapid decline, have been well documented for breeding Griffon Vulture populations in neighbouring Bulgaria.
The breeding Egyptian Vulture population has also sharply declined, from 11 pairs in 1994 down to six in 1995, only two in 1996 and 2-3 in 1997. Of the three nesting sites found in close proximity along Mangazi, where the pictures on pages 68 and 69 were taken, none is in use today. The maximum number of Egyptian Vultures at the feeding area, which had remained stable between 1990 and 1995 at around 20 birds, jumped to 37 in 1996. Apparently the birds return to the forest yet, for unknown reasons, fail to nest.
The Sea Eagle pair that had moved its nest beyond the southern boundary of the protected area successfully raised an eaglet in both 1995 and 1996, but in 1997 the nest was abandoned for unknown reasons. Imperial Eagles are no longer breeding in the hills, however, they regularly show up in the winter. During the last two years three Imperial Eagles (injured birds that have recovered) have been released in the area in an attempt to increase the resident population. Golden and Lesser-spotted Eagles as well as the smaller raptors maintain healthy and stable populations. Black Storks are also increasing, presently numbering more than 15 pairs.
The environmental assessment and management study carried out by scientific staff from WWF Greece, under a LIFE project funded by the European Union, was completed in 1995. It recommended specific guidelines for the management of the core areas, buffer zone and other important habitats. This study and the relevant draft legislation are pending approval by the competent authorities. According to the proposal, the forest of Dadia may soon be declared a National Park by Presidential Decree and a specific body will be established for its management.
The guest house, now completed, has a total capacity of 30 beds. Next to it, the Visitor Information Centre houses a permanent photographic exhibition. Trained guides provide slide and movie presentations and escort visitors to the enlarged observation hut and on walks through the forest, following marked paths.
The Dadia Ecoturistic Enterprise, established in 1994, runs the Ecoturistic Centre and supports five full time employees while providing work on a part time basis to nine guides and the thirty six members of the Women’s Agroturistic Co-operative. After completion of the environmental assessment study the local office of WWF Greece continues to monitor the area and provides significant support to the ecoturistic projects.
Up to 1994 a few thousand persons visited the forest of Dadia every year. The wide publicity given to Dadia, combined with completion of the visitor facilities, led to an enormous increase in visitor numbers. Almost 10,000 persons passed through the area in 1995, 18,000 persons in 1996 and more than 15,000 persons during the first half of 1997. This increase led to the establishment, in 1996, of a permanent collaboration scheme, comprising the Ministry of the Environment, the Prefecture of Evros, the Forestry Service, the local authorities of Dadia and Lefkimi, the Ecoturistic Enterprise and WWF Greece, to carry out a project for improving and further expanding the ecoturistic infrastructure.
I should like to think that my book, received with unprecedented warmth by the public -and I wish to thank you all for this- played a small part in bringing to prominence this, hitherto unknown yet so important, part of our country.
I also hope that the management scheme will soon be fully implemented so that the future of the forest of Dadia, this invaluable treasure for our national heritage and our continent, will be safeguarded.