The Olympus National Park has a rich variety of insects, rare birds and various mammals. Differing habitats coexist in the park’s environment and offer refuge to many species of mammals, including major and minor carnivores, herbivores, and birds of prey. They have recorded 32 species of mammals, amongst them the well known wild goat (Rupicapra rupicapra), deer (Capreolus capreolus), wolf (Canis lupus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), fox (Vulpes vulpes), marten (Martes foina), squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), jackal (Canis aureus), wild cat (Felis sylvestris), and more.
Also identified here are 108 species of birds that find refuge in inaccessible forests and steep rocky slopes. Some of these species of fauna, such as the chamois, the golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) and rare woodpeckers are endangered species, protected by international conventions. Meanwhile, in the streams and ponds we find a significant number of amphibians and reptiles as well as a huge number of butterflies for which Olympus is famous.
The Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra)
The chamois is the most representative large mammal of the high mountains of Greece. It survives by feeding mainly on various grasses and leaves, tree branches and lichen. The ideal habitat for chamois are steep wooded slopes that end in steep peaks. Its characteristic feature for both males and females are their upright and backward-bending horns. The main threats to the chamois are poaching, habitat degradation from overgrazing, and genetic weakening of the species from the gradual shrinking of its population.
Deer (Capreolus capreolus)
The smallest species in the deer family, the deer lives at lower altitudes during winter and higher altitudes in summer, because of the quantity and quality of food it finds. Its habitat is in forests with deciduous or mixed conifer trees. The deer is the natural prey for carnivores, but the main threats this species faces comes from humans who pursue illegal hunting practices and destroy its natural habitat.
Wolf (Canis lupus)
In Greece today it is estimated that around 700 wolves live in almost all of the country’s continental terrain, north of Viotia. In these areas, wolves survive in numerous small and isolated groups, with a stronger presence in areas where there are still large mountain ranges without a strong human presence. The reduction of natural prey for wolves (deer, roe deer, wild boar) due to anthropogenic factors, means they turn to livestock for food, which exacerbates conflicts between humans and wolves. Poisoned baits are still a widely prevalent practices for killing wolves, regardless that they are strictly prohibited by law. Also, the expansion of human activity even in inaccessible and remote areas, large construction projects, the opening of extensive and uncontrolled networks of forest roads, the expansion of pastures and the reduction of forest areas, has gradually led to the degradation of their habitat, threatening their survival.
Jackal (Canis aureus)
The jackal is a medium-sized mammal that lives on a diet of plants and fruits, as well as small animals such as amphibians, fish, snails, mice, rabbits, insects, birds and sheep. The main reason for the dramatic depopulation of jackal is hunting. It is the only medium-sized mammal that has faced such a rapid decline in Greece over recent years. Fires and other human intervention have been other factors that have contributed to the decrease in its population.
Photo (cover): www.mpouzou.gr