The Alkyonis wildlife refuge on Paros
More than 3,000 creatures saved so far, and the good work is all set to continue. The Alkyonis wildlife refuge on Paros has been taking care of birds and animals since 1995. A volunteer at the refuge tending a beautiful flamingo. Some 70 percent of Alkyonis's patients have been released back into their natural habitats. The Alkyonis wildlife refuge on Paros has treated 3,000 birds and animals from all over Greece. Every winter, when the hunting season starts, the workload of the medical staff and volunteers multiplies.
This year Alkyonis is better prepared than ever to receive its patients at one of the best organized wildlife hospitals in Europe.
A group of friends set up the Society for the Welfare and Protection of Wildlife on a trial basis in 1995. Most of them had some connection with Paros, the site of the only house available to them - the family home of the society's director, Marios Fournaris. It was decided to establish it as the society's headquarters.
The wildlife hospital proved far more necessary than had first seemed. Currently about 100 volunteers help out on Paros alone, while more than 400 volunteers throughout Greece locate and send injured wildlife to the island.
The initial budget to build the hospital (250 million drachmas) was prohibitive, especially when no state or municipal funding was forthcoming. But 112 volunteers from all over Europe worked on completing the project, and donations from corporations covered the cost of most of the equipment. This reduced the final cost to a tenth of the original, just 25 million drachmas.
The refuge is built on a 12.6-thousand-square-meter block of land donated to the society by the Longovardas Monastery of Paros and it has been planted with trees.
The surgeries, volunteers' accommodation and food preparation center are in a 170-square- meter stone building. The birds being cared for live in cages which are roomy enough for them to feel reasonably comfortable.
When they are ready, the animals are released into their natural habitat again, and 70 percent of those cared for by Alkyonis have been returned to the wild.
Those unable to survive alone in the wild stay at the refuge in specially designed, fenced-off areas. Visitors can view them from the observatory, but may not approach them, because wild animals in captivity suffer from anxiety, which the presence of humans aggravates. This is the great philosophical and ethical difference between wildlife refuges and zoos, says Fournaris. Wildlife refuges focus on respect for nature, while zoos focus on making a profit, sometimes ignoring the anxiety of the animals they house, and sometimes exploiting them. A refuge based on such a philosophy naturally does not confine itself to tending injured animals. Ever since its foundation, Alkyonis has systematically run environmental education programs, and its new facilities include a special room for that purpose.
Society for the Welfare and Protection of Wildlife
84400 Paroikia, Paros. P.O. 844 00
Tel. +30 22840 22931
Cel +30 6944 741616