Kukla Wetlands Birdwatching Center
Panaromic view of Kukla Wetlands. Click to see full image.
Eastern Mesarya Plain is a vast and mainly flat area. Most of it is generally characterised by large agricultural fields interspersed with olive/carob/almond etc plots, and eucalyptus windbreaks that mark the territory. A network of streams and ditches drain the area in winter and are usually dry in summer. In the spring the fields are green and colourful with flowers, in the summer the harvested barley and wheat fields are scorched by the sun, and the brown colour of the earth predominates. This general structure of the habitat is indicative of the land management of the region. It has always been exploited by agricultural activities and the plains are well known for their agricultural richness as the “bread basket of Cyprus”. With this project we are planning to expose a rather different and until recently, much-overlooked aspect of the region: its natural value.
During 2010-2011 KUSKOR managed an EU funded bi-communal project aiming to determine IBAs (Important Bird Area) of Cyprus. During this project Eastern Mesarya Plain was evaluated for its ornithological importance. One result of this project, which is key to the current proposal, was that a part of this area including Kukla (Köprülü) Reservoir was accepted as an IBA by Birdlife International. We hope that this success will initiate long term conservation efforts for the IBAs in North Cyprus and the current proposal will be a further step towards strengthening interest in a specific IBA.
Resident and migrate birds at Kukla Wetlands
Environmental conservation is a long term multifaceted concept. Declaration of an area as an IBA is a step in the right direction as once a site is designated; stakeholders within that IBA may face pressure from local and international governance to provide for the protection of nature of that area or to limit their impacts upon it. But such designation cannot guarantee its conservation on ground in reality, particularly where vital components of the IBA are regarded as a human resource, even man-made, as it is the case here. In such a case, arguments of the relevant governance may appear weak to residents who have other vested interest in the site. Local governments are far more likely to implement conservation policies and measures if they consider that the natural values of the region are a profitable resource for economic development, than for ethical reasons, or this intrinsic value that these resources may offer to future generations. Many countries around the world have promoted their natural assets in such a way as to motivate thousands of tourists to travel to these sites, generating revenues for national and local economies.
Birds eye view of Kukla Wetlands
Cyprus is a very important country for birds at national, European and global levels. Over 380 species of bird have been recorded in Cyprus some of which are very scarce through Europe. About 200 of these occur regularly as passage migrants flying between Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East. It has higher bird endemism (2 species and 5 sub-species) than any other European country. Accordingly, there are already bird-watchers visiting Cyprus only to observe birds. However, there are no facilities designated to bird-watching in North Cyprus. Actually, there is a huge lack of knowledge about the importance of the wildlife through the locals. Particularly, the value of Mesarya Plain has long been underestimated and even undermined, since these areas were never considered as potential Natura 2000 sites.
Through this project, we aim to create an significant birdwacthing hotspot which will attract local and international birdwatchers. The project was initiated in 2014 in collaboration with Beyarmudu Municipality and with financial support of EU. Once the project is complete, the area will see a flow of international niche tourists into the village, focusing attention at the wetland and providing tangible economic assets in conservation and promotion of the site as an ecotourism resource that will benefit the community as a whole, whilst exploiting the wetland sustainably and preserving its wildlife. And hopefully, in the long-term, the community itself will begin to lobby for conservation of Kukla. This will represent the first complete example of an international level bird-watching centre in North Cyprus and will add to the value of Cyprus as well as North Cyprus as an international bird-watching destination.