Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Captain Corelli's Mandolin

13 May, 2011 - 16:02 -- John Burton

What, might you ask, has Louis de Bernier's novel got to do with a blog on wildlife?

Well last week I had a holiday. A true holiday because I forgot to take my iPhone with me, so had a blissful week with no emails, no texts, and no phone calls. And the world did not end, and the WLT office ran very smoothly indeed.  I did not read Louis de Bernier's novel, which I read several years ago, but I did go to Kefalonia, where the novel was set. In the novel, a Pine Marten plays a role, which is interesting, because Pine Martens do not occur on the island. It is another species, the Stone Marten that occurs there.

I was fortunate enough to see three Stone Martins while in Kefalonia (one a  roadkill unfortunately). But Stone Martens are generally more likely than the Pine Martens to be found around human habitations - and indeed the first one I encountered was right in the middle of Fiskardo, a popular seaside resort. It was good to know that they were flourishing, though my other experiences with wildlife in Greece have been less encouraging.

I first went to Greece in 1963 and my recollection of that visit was that at night there were clouds of insects around the relatively few street lights, and often a toad, sitting at the base, gulping the insects down. I also remember geckos being commonplace around the coastal villages.  But over the intervening years I have seen both the insects and the geckos become increasingly rare, to the point of total absence in many places. This has happened all over southern Europe. Fortunately there are still huge areas of wilderness in Greece, even on islands like Kefalonia, but I do wonder to what extent the light pollution of Europe has wiped out insects over places far from towns and villages.


Submitted by Robert Burton on

We had a stone marten in the garden when holidaying on Crete. But my memory of British streetlights is bats circling them to feed on the swarms of insects. The village is now highly light-polluted, not only with more streetlights but the ‘vanity lights’ on smart houses – on gateposts, in the gardens and around the buildings. One house is even floodlit so we can remark on its bizarre architecture 24/7.
But it would be difficult to separate the effects of light pollution on insects from the presumably greater effects of insecticides.
A title for a book: “There ain’t room for both of us” i.e. humans and the rest of creation.

Submitted by John Burton on

It has also since occurred for me that the numerous cats so beloved by British tourists, may also play a role in the decline of lizards around the resorts of Greece. Back in the ’60s, I don’t recall the cats in any great numbers, and by the early 90s they were populous in almsot all the resorts. More recently there has been a decline in many areas due to neutering campaigns. Any one any observations on cat predation on lizards and geckos around the mediterranean area?

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