Even after four days, the fire brigade in Greece cannot get the serious forest fires in the border region with Turkey under control. Massive fires continue to rage in Dadia National Park. The flames are destroying a protected area of ​​particular importance, the habitat of endangered birds of prey.

In the almost 430 square kilometer forest, in which predominantly pine and coniferous trees grow, around 73 square kilometers belong to a strictly protected area. Because 36 of the 38 species of birds of prey in Europe live here – including three of the four vulture species (Aegypius monachus, Neophron percnopterus and Gyps fulvus), which are native to the protected area in northeast Greece.

They are among the last birds of prey of their kind in Europe: According to a report in the daily newspaper “Kathimerini”, there were only 35 pairs of black vultures (Aegypius monachus). It is the largest vulture on our continent with a wingspan of up to three meters. It is estimated that eight nests may have escaped the fire. According to a recent report in the daily Kathimerini, they are in a part of the forest where there was no fire.

Even if the birds of prey managed to escape from the fires, the widespread fires will cause them great problems. Panagiota Maragou of the environmental protection organization WWF Greece told the Kathimerini: “Black vultures build large nests [up to two meters in diameter] in the tops of very tall trees, the black pines. When their nests are destroyed, they don’t just have to build them on another Build a new tree, but on a suitable tree.” In the future, it will therefore be necessary for them to find suitable trees for shelter. Finally, the dirty vulture (Neophron percnopterus) came to an even smaller population in Dadia. Only four pairs of this species, which is also endangered, survived here.

Whether the rare birds of prey were even able to escape the severe fires is uncertain. According to information from the WWF on Thursday, around 30 percent of the national park has burned up so far – although it only burned here last year. The Ornithological Society in Greece is now calling for a ban on hunting in order to provide the surviving birds with a habitat.

Due to its geographic location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, Dadia National Park is close to the easternmost migratory corridor of many bird species. Gaps in the forest from past grazing, logging and small fires have provided good conditions for most raptors, it said. After all, it would make it easier for them to find food. Because according to the UN cultural organization Unesco, the forest offers a “high biological diversity with unique and rare species of flora and fauna”.

In addition to the endangered species of vultures, which had good living conditions here, the national park is the habitat of 360-400 plant species, including 25 species of orchids, 104 species of butterflies, 12-13 species of amphibians and 29 species of reptiles. There are also 60-65 species of mammals, including 24 species of bats and more than 200 species of birds.

Other areas in Europe with similar characteristics are mainly in Spain with the Monfragüe and Cabañeros National Parks, with the Dadia being “unique” for its ecological diversity, according to the Unesco website. Now it is important to get the fire under control as soon as possible and finally to be able to extinguish it before the protected area that is so important for Europe’s flora and fauna is completely destroyed.

Sources: Kathimerini, Dadia National Park, Unesco