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BACKGROUND

I first visited Thásos for a fortnight in 1982 (18 June - 1 July), for no other reason than it caught my eye when looking through holiday brochures. The intention at the time was merely to get to a Mediterranean destination with plenty of sun and a reasonable chance of seeing some of the birdlife of southern Europe. In both respects the holiday was successful - blissful weather throughout and a host of new birds to enjoy. At the time Thásos was just developing as a destination for British tourists (I think this was the first year that GB package companies descended on the island), although it has a long tradition of popularity with German tourists and is also popular as a holiday location for Greeks.

Rapid expansion in the tourist market was held back by the relative inconvenience of access as the nearest airport was at Thessalonika and hence a long coach journey was necessary across country to reach the ferry at Keramoti. The opening of Kavala International Airport in the late 1980s (I forget the date) made Thásos a much more accessible destination for foreign tourists and since then the island has seen a steady rise in the number of hotels and other tourist facilities. No doubt this has had an impact on the island’s economy and hence an overall improvement in infrastructure. It is striking looking back at photographs from 1982 to see how things have changed, generally slowly as is so often the way in Greece but nonetheless inexorable. Limenas (Thassos Town) gradually expands its margins and eats away at the magnificent ancient olive groves that still, just about, surround it and the astonishing beauty of Aliki bay, its beach once a deserted golden strand, now backs onto a row of new properties to service the tourist (though as yet these are not overly distracting).

I decided to return to Thásos in September 1993, but this time with a more clearly defined purpose. I wanted to spend some time exploring the ecology of a locality, getting familiar with the habitats and understanding how the species fitted into their environment. Thásos seemed an ideal choice, an island that appeared to have been little-studied previously and with a rich fauna in a landscape that offered many possibilities for discovery. And so the seeds which have given rise to this web site were sown, resulting (to date) in eleven visits to the island from 18 June-1 July 1982, 6-20 Sept 1993, 12-19 Sept 1995, 6-20 May 1997, 19-26 May 1999, 26 Sept - 3 Oct 2001, 23-28 May 2003, 15-22 June 2005, 10-17 June 2007, 4-11 August 2013 and 13-20 May 2016. Each time I have stayed on the edge of Thassos Town, principally because the northern half of the island offers access to the full range of habitats, but also because proximity to the mainland permits day visits to the Nestos Delta - which is a must for any naturalist staying on Thásos.

Progress with those initial aims has been steady but slow. Identification of species is difficult due to the lack of accessible keys (especially for the weevil fauna, which is my own area of special interest), particularly as Thásos has a mix of species from various biogeographical regions as a result of its closeness to Turkey. I have benefited from the assistance of many colleagues in identifying taxa (acknowledged in the relevant pages) but much material remains to be named. The lack of decent maps for Thásos, as elsewhere in Greece, was another problem although nowadays this is less of an issue. Much time can be spent trying to get to localities inland only to find that the tracks do not lead where you expected them to. Patience and a process of trial and error are necessary. There is also no ready introduction to the natural history of the island to provide a first step towards understanding. Over the years, in addition to my own experiences, I have gleaned information from other naturalists that have visited Thásos and pieced together knowledge on important wildlife sites from discussions with people I have met on the island. The result is this web site as an aid to others who may wish to take up exploration of the island’s wildlife riches in the future. At present it is a distillation of my own imperfect knowledge and searches of the literature, but with contributions from readers it will grow as a valuable resource to document knowledge of the island’s flora, fauna and habitats. Hopefully this can then be transformed into a useful conservation tool to identify priorities and influence decisions on local planning and the expansion of capital works.

If you have comments or biological records that will help to develop this site, please e-mail the author at: thasos@btinternet.com.

 

Hints for vegetarians on Thasos