"I promised the rainbow a better earth, a season full of soil fresh with immaculate chamomile at the bare feet...With pure white birds I filled the wind that will go to the morning inauguration of the sea! And here we are both ready, holding hands...When we blow the veil opens...to beautiful years yet to come...From that point, toil will begin and happiness will enter the crystals we awaited."
From "The Whole World" by Odysseus Elytis, 1979 Nobel laureate
And so it was on October 5, 2003 that the thirty-three founding members whom I had recruited, representing individuals and organisations from around the world, gathered together on Tilos that day to publicly declare their dedication to the conservation of Tilos and its 14 uninhabited islets through the formation of the Tilos Park Association (TPA), a Greek registered non-profit NGO, that grew into a well-funded organization supported by an international dues-paying membership that included 2/3 of the island residents, island visitors and national government officials including the President of the Hellenic Republic, Karolos Papoulias.
The pristine natural environment of Tilos and its islets radiate the beauty, vitality, and resilience of the indigenous flora and fauna that have evolved for centuries in the southeastern Aegean Sea. The founding members of the TPA were inspired by the irreplaceable value of the island’s unspoiled, interdependent ecosystems that consist of 16 different biotopes fed by underground springs of clean, fresh water that nourish the 63 sq km island.
The documentation of more than 378 botanical species; 162 resident and migratory wild bird species, of which one quarter require protection under the EU Birds Directive 79/409/EEC; the rare Mediterranean monk seal classified by IUCN as "critically endangered"; and a myriad of other terrestrial and marine wildlife species clearly warranted the designation of the island and islets as an EU registered Special Protection Area, a Natura 2000 Network site and a 2004-2007 host to the EU Tilos Life Nature program of which the newly founded TPA became a full partner.
Yet awareness by the TPA founding members of growing societal pressures, imposed by economic as well as recreational interests that threatened the survival of the island's natural environment, inspired the TPA to devote its efforts to the conservation of the island SPA and the ecologically sensitive development of the islanders' socio-economic needs. This partnership of equally respected endeavours was manifested in the aims of the organisation and, more importantly, in the actions of the TPA.
The TPA welcomed members from around the world who generously contributed their time, effort and creative ideas which represented the organisation's most valuable asset. Within the first 3 years of the TPA’s existence, these ideas were transformed into actions that included (i) the successful lobbying of the Hellenic government at national, regional and local levels for the approval of the Tilos Natural Park establishment which was officially granted in 2006, (ii) securing the 100% EU funding approval of a wetlands development project incorporating interdependent bio-systems and a discreet visitor observation centre following the loss of the natural island wetlands due to construction development, (iii) actively working with local residents in their establishment of long term ecotourism businesses that showcase the island's natural beauty, (iv) inviting and cooperating with renewable energy experts in keeping with the Kyoto Protocol, (v) coordinating the implementation of the entire EU Tilos Life Nature program, (vi) extending invitations to and organising excursions for non-resident student science groups to study the island ecology for academic credit, (vii) the development of ecological maps and guides for visitors, (viii) local high school presentations and weekly visitor discussion groups to heighten public awareness about the island's natural resources, (ix) the establishment of an Avian Recovery Centre to care for injured birds and other wildlife species; (x) the creation of a library containing visitor guides in 7 languages along with island botanical, geological and marine as well as terrestrial biological information; and (xi) island tours covering the history, ecology and culture of the island. These actions reflect the energy, enthusiasm and goal orientation of the TPA staff, volunteers and membership whose commitment deepened with each accomplishment that could not be achieved without a collaborative effort.
This team effort was best exemplified by the September 2004 Avian Recovery Centre [ARC] establishment as a facility to house, feed and care for birds found on the island suffering from injury, migratory exhaustion and/or trauma. In the first 24 months of operation, the ARC received 26 birds representing 16 resident and migratory avian species including Eleonora’s Falcon, Long Legged Buzzard, Gray Heron, Kingfisher, Little Bittern, Kestrel, Song Thrush, Scops Owl and Moorhen. The interior landscape design of the large outdoor cages featured bay trees, berry vines, rosemary, thyme, marjoram and lemon verbena as well as water pools to offer shelter, shade, wind protection and a natural habitat for the birds. Without any avian or veterinary professionals on the island, we were fortunate to have located non-resident volunteer experts who informed us about the proper care and feeding of each species. Island residents and the TPA volunteer staff provided the birds’ necessities from their own personal resources during the ARC’s daily operation.
Many of these birds recovered and were released; unfortunately, some did not survive as their injuries were too severe. Regardless of the outcome, however, each shared with us its own characteristic behaviour, unique personality and struggle to survive. And just as important, each individual enriched our knowledge about those with whom we shared this beautiful island SPA.
The Tilos Park Journal was published by the Tilos Park Association. The purpose of the Journal was to acquaint the public with then-current island news having international relevance. The articles reported on such topics as island renewable energy development; the island challenges associated with endangered marine turtle species conservation; island wildlife conservation actions in compliance with mandatory EU Directives; comparisons and contrasts among Tilos, European and north African EU Life Nature program experiences; wetlands restoration; ecotourism developments; the significance, restoration and sustainable uses of historical sites; Tilos botanical history, mythology, ancient trading products and existing rare species; and more.
As of winter 2008, the Journal was electronically distributed to more than 6,250 international subscribers including European Commission and European Parliament Members, Hellenic government officials and Hellenic Parliament Members, international NGO's, European multi-national industry executives, private individuals and TPA members from Canada, South Africa, Europe, Algeria, Morocco, Turkey and the US.
Our TPA experience filled with socio-economic and environmental conservation progress, sustainable development programs, volunteer support from island residents as well as visitors, and, most important of all, memorable group collaborations can be replicated in any community around the world when the strength of shared values succeeds in breaking the burdensome chains made of individual differences.
The Tilos Park Journal:
- Download TPA Journal EN 1
- Download TPA Journal EN 2A
- Download TPA Journal 2B
- Download TPA Journal EN 3
- Download TPA Journal EN 4
- Download TPA Journal EN 5
- Download TPA Journal EN 6
- Download TPA Journal EN 7
- Download The Tilos Park Experience
- Download TILOS LIFE PROJECT
- Download TILOS LIFE PROJECT Final Report
- Download TILOS AFTER LIFE CONSERVATION PLAN
- Download Brochure EN
- Download Brochure GR
Tilos Natural Park:
- Download Presidential Decree
- Download Tilos Park Presidential Decree Draft
- Download Governor's Council Park Approval
- Download Ministry of Agriculture Approval
- Download Ministry of Development
- Download ENVIRONMENTAL STUDY APPROVAL
- Download Map Tilos Park
- Download Natural Park of Tilos Ministry of Environment
- Download ELEFTHEROS TYPOS 03-08-2007
- Download ELEFTHEROS TYPOS 25-08-2007
- Download KATHIMERINI 01-27-2007
- Download Liberation
- Download OON Austria
- Download Freiheit fur Tiere
- Download On BLUE
- Download Holiday Express
- Download PASSPORT MAGAZINE
- Download GEOTROPIO
- Download GNOMI Nespaper December 10 2007
- Download RODIAKI 2 NOVEMBER 2008
- Download Kathimerini English August 31 2012
The Tilos Park Experience. by Constantine Alexander is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at http://www.constantinealexander.net/2011/04/the-tilos-park-experience.html.