Update on Xyliatos and the Cyprus Grass Snake
That was two years before the authorities started to breed the trout in the Xyliatos Dam.
The trout is a natural enemy of the Grass Snake and not natural or native to Cyprus. It was brought in just for business purposes.
“I advised the Head of the Fisheries Dept that they needed to stop fishing and clear the Xyliatos Dam of all fish otherwise there is no protection for this endangered species.”
A very famous journalist from the Cyprus Mail wrote ‘The grass snake of Cyprus was rediscovered, only to lose them again, and this time for ever’.
From 1992 until 2001 George continued to fight to close the Xyliatos Dam for fishing, so not to lose the Grass Snake forever.
“I started to build a reptile park in Peyia Village, and there also I bred the Grass Snake with success. I had to close the park in 2009 because the land owner I rented the land from, told me I couldn’t rent the land any longer as he needed the land for other purposes. I had to release all the animals back into the wild, as it was difficult to find more land to rebuild another reptile park, with the priority for the Grass Snake. I was unable to continue the observation for the Grass Snake in the wild due to my financial situation.”
“In 1995 I discovered another population in a natural lake at Paralimni. The situation is as bad there as the one at the Xyliatos Dam. The difference is at Xyliatos…. there are no more Grass Snakes. The reason for this is that they wouldn’t listen to me, and bad management.”
“I know how many snakes have been killed by the fishermen, and how many were eaten by the Trout. From 2001 until 2010 the fishermen ignored all signs which plainly states that fishing is forbidden.”
“I tried to make an appointment with the Minister of Agriculture, but with no success. When I did meet him on a special day in Paphos, I ask him to say a few words about the Grass Snake, he told me he didn’t like snakes and left me in the cold. He is a person who was fully responsible for the protection of the wildlife of Cyprus. There are hundreds of articles in newspapers, magazines, radio interviews and documentary films on television. There are also hundreds of pictures which show us the Grass Snake in the wild, dead and alive.”
“The Fisheries Dept erected a fence around part of the Xyliatos, and the question is ‘What for’!? In my opinion it is a waste of the tax payers money, but they tell me they have no money to help me!”
At the moment the Environmental High Commissioner from Cyprus is doing everything to help George get some land to build a Breeding Centre for the Grass Snake. We have to wait for an answer hopefully before the last Grass Snake is gone.
Here is George’s report to the Cyprus Government on the situation at Xyliatos.
In 1992, I rediscovered the Grass Snake of Cyprus at the Xyliatos Dam. The Ministry and public were informed, and in the following years I gave a great deal of information to other herpetologist and students. My Knowledge also helped Dr Birgit Blosat with her doctor’s degree.
The Xyliatos Dam was endangered right from the beginning. Trout, lobsters, herons, and also the problem with the water levels changing, due to weather conditions. The farmers needed water for their farms. Many Grass Snakes were killed by the fishermen. The situation at Paralimni Lake is similar because of these reasons we mentioned and others.
During the past year, the Fisheries Department protected parts of the lake by fencing. These fences were violated, which allowed people access to the protected part of the dam. In my opinion, the only way to protect the Grass Snake at Xyliatos Dam would have been to rid the lake of trout and lobsters, which would have been possible by letting the water out in the Autumn. Unfortunately it is too late for this now, as I, and many other people, have not seen a Grass Snake at Xyliatos Dam for five years, so maybe there is no need to discuss this any more at the moment.
Instead once again I urgently ask you to give me the opportunity to breed the Cyprus Grass Snake. In the past I have been very successful in breeding the Grass Snake and have a great deal of experience in this field. I guarantee that within the next ten years, I would have enough new Grass Snakes to build up a qualified number in Cyprus. In this time the Government, the Society, and me would build a safe habitat, in a natural environment so that they can continue to breed.
It would be a great pleasure for George to give a talk to any organisation, large or small, about the Grass Snake of Cyprus.
Contact George at snakegeorge [at] hotmail [dot] com
From January 2009 when George closed his park, until this day, he has received phone calls, emails and letters, mainly foreigners, who want to see the park, also schools and tour operators and sadly he has to tell them he doesn’t know what the future is.
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