Feature: Endangered Loggerheads

The Ionian Islands are home to one of Europe’s most endangered marine species, the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). Zakynthos hosts the largest density of loggerhead nests, with up to 1300 recorded in some years along the Bay of Laganas, an area protected as the National Marine Park of Zakynthos.

Unfortunately, the extended tracts of clean, flat sand on which the turtles lay their eggs are also the favoured habitat of basking beach-lovers. Strict regulations are supposed to limit building, boating, fishing and water sports in designated zones, but these rules are not always obeyed. During breeding season (from May to October), nesting beaches are barred to visitors between dusk and dawn; from July onwards, as the eggs start to hatch, conservation agencies place frames with warning notes over buried nests. Many eggs are still destroyed by visitors, however, and countless hatchlings don't reach the water, having been disoriented by sunbeds, noise and lights.

Volunteers from Archelon (www.archelon.gr) and the park run education and volunteer programs, including a visitor centre at Gerakas Beach. To avoid harming turtles and nesting sites, don't use umbrellas on dry sand (use the wet part of the beach instead) and don't take boat trips in the Bay of Laganas, as these have been known to torment and even kill turtles.