Protecting the Monk seal
The northern part of Karpathos the nearby uninhabited island of Saria fall within an environmentally protected area, under the responsibility of the Management Body of Karpathos and Saria. One of its key missions is to protect the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, Monachus Monachus. Within a European context, it is also involved in protecting locally and regionally important ecosystems and habitats on land and sea
Monachus Monachus is in fact the most threatened sea mammal in the EU and is in danger of extinction. While Karpathos is a very suitable habitat for the seals, there are only a few dozen on the island left.
Shells and snails
Beyond the seal the island has a few other curiosities, endemic wildlife and endangered species that should be respected. For example, an interesting kind of gastropod or land snail on the island is Albinaria unicolor, with its elongated shell. Also curious is the land snail Pyramidula chorismenostomawhose spiral whorls are not attached to one another. Other snails include Vitrea clessini (almost endemic) and Zonites sariae (obviously from Saria Island). A type of rare locust called Rhacocleis silvestri and an uncommon island beetle known as Danacaea insularis are also part of the fauna on Karpathos.
The bivalve mollusk Arca noae – Noah’s Ark shell – can grow to about 10 centimeters and can sometimes be visible in low-tide areas, particularly in Tristomo Bay. Another such mollusk known as the fan mussel or noble pen shell (Pinna nobilis) is also a protected species and flourishes in the bay’s seabed. It can grow to much bigger proportions, as much as 1.2 meters, however it usually measures anywhere from 30 to 50 centimeter.
There are two caves on the island that are home to different kinds of life. Saint John’s cave hosts different species of crawling bugs known as isopods (actually a type of crustacean) such as Bathytropa granulata and Chaetophiloscia cellaria, as well as an endemic insect (orthopteron) known as Discoptila kinzelbachi.
The Olympos cave on the other hand is home to the barn owl (Tyto alba), bicolored shrew (Crocidura leucodon), lesser mouse-eared bat (Myotis blythii) and an intriguing species of vesper bat known as Savi’s pipistrelle (Pipistrellus savii) which are considered protected species under European and/or Greek law.
Rare frogs and salamanders
Some rare or endangered species of amphibians can be found within the limits of the protected area, such as the Karpathos Lycian salamander (Lyciasalamandra helverseni), known also as Kochylina. It can be found only in the Dodecanese. A very important endemic amphibian species of the island is the Karpathos frog (Pelophylax cerigensis) and is considered critically endangered.
In terms of serpents, Kotschy’s gecko (Cyrtopodion kotschyi oertzeni) and the Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii fabichi) – both of which are considered protected species – can be found only on Karpathos and nearby islands. Also protected are:
Snake-eyed lizard (Ophisops elegans)
Ocellated skink (Chalcides ocellatus)
Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Grass snake (Natrix natrix)
Large whipsnake (Coluber jugularis)
Photo (cover): www.discovergreece.com