AP: Thousands of goats drive Greek island of Samothrace into crisis

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AP: Thousands of goats drive Greek island of Samothrace into crisisIsland authorities hope to attain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status

With oak and chestnut forests, waterfalls and rugged coastline, Samothraki has a wild beauty and a remoteness that sets it apart from other Greek islands, AP notes in a recent feature.

There are no package holidays here or even a reliable ferry service to the mainland. Island authorities hope to attain UNESCO Biosphere Reserve status. Yet still, the natural environment is under threat from an insatiable assailant.

Goats outnumber human inhabitants 15-fold and they are munching stretches of Samothraki into a moonscape. Following decades of trying to find a solution, experts and locals are working together to find a 21st-century way to save the island’s ecology and economy.

Semi-wild, the goats roam across the island, which is nearly three times the size of Manhattan, and can be spotted on rooftops, in trees or on top of cars as they scour the landscape for anything to eat. Their unchecked overgrazing is causing crisis-level erosion.

Torrential rains two years ago swept away the island’s town hall and damaged its roads. There were no trees or vegetation left on the steep, goat-eaten hillsides to stop the mudslides caused by the downpour.

“There are no big trees to hold the soil. And it’s a big problem, both financial and real because (the mud) will come down on our heads,” notes George Maskalidis, who helps run Sustainable Samothraki Association, an environmental group.

Samothraki, in the northern Aegean Sea, is a two-hour ferry ride south of Alexandroupoli, a Greek city near the country’s border with Turkey.

With a mere 3,000 inhabitants and hard to access, the island has largely missed out on Greece’s tourism boom. Mountain herding is still a way of life here and despite trying for three decades, regional authorities have found it hard to build a local consensus on how to deal with the issue.

The goat population, meanwhile, rose fivefold to an estimated 75,000 by the late 1990s. Some parts of the countryside were simply nibbled away.

The goat numbers have since fallen to below 50,000 as there is little left to graze on. But this has left the island in a trap. Most of its goats are malnourished and too scrawny to be used commercially for meat, animal feed is too expensive to maintain a sustainable business and much of the soil is too depleted for trees to grow back.

On the other hand, prices for wool, leather, meat and milk have dropped, leading Samothraki’s farmers to grow increasingly desperate.

Read the full article at thenationalherald.com

RELATED TOPICS: GreeceGreek tourism newsTourism in GreeceGreek islandsHotels in GreeceTravel to GreeceGreek destinationsGreek travel marketGreek tourism statisticsGreek tourism report

 


 

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