Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scientists call it the last jungle of Europe; Greek historian Herodotus (5th century BC) said that lions prevented the Persian army of Xerxes from crossing its lands, and Aristotle wrote of a strange land covering a large surface on the banks of river Nestos. Also known by its Turkish name Koja Orman (Great Forest), the riparian forest of River Nestos was one of the largest of its type in the whole Mediterranean.

Nestos River is one of the five longest rivers in Greece; Over 230 kms long, it rises in the Rila mountains of Bulgaria, running approximately 130 km in Greek territory before flowing into the Aegean Sea. It creates an environment of special interest, unique value and rare beauty, where rare plants and endangered animals find shelter.

It is for these reasons that the region of Eastern Macedonia –Thrace decided to apply for the inclusion of the forest and the broader National Park into the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves Programme, consisting of 631 biosphere reserves in 119 countries. "The deadline is September 2015 and it is certainly worth the effort" says Panos Koutrakis, head of the Park’s managing committee. The forest is only one part of the broader National Park which is considered Greece’s largest wetland, including the river, its delta and 22 small lakes, all protected by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.