Tilos is located in the Dodecanese island chain next to Rhodes in the southeastern Aegean Sea, approximately 20 km off the southwest coast of Turkey. Within the small territory of 65 sq. km, Tilos with 350 residents and its 16 uninhabited islets are gifted with an abundance as well as diversity of wildlife and flora species living within 16 different biotopes that warranted its registration as an EU Special Protection Area, Natura 2000 site and its inclusion in the Corine Biotopes Project for the special protection of certain flora and an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.
The island territory was once part of Asia Minor. Fifteen million years ago, the dust from a volcanic eruption on the Aegean island of Kos spread over the territory that was to become Tilos creating areas with a porous environment in hillsides for many avian species to easily hollow out shelters for nesting and breeding.
The territory broke off from the continent approximately 7 million years ago carrying the ancestors of modern day wildlife, some species of which are rare on the European continent (e.g. Pistacia terebinthus palaestina [terebinth or pistachio tree], Coluber jugularis [whip snake]). Human populations date back to Minoan, Mycenean and Dorian cultures approximately 3,000 – 1,000 B.C..
The zenith of the island was reached during the Middle Ages when the Byzantine monastery of St. Panteleimon was built in 1470, ancient castles and fortresses were built by the Knights of St. John and Tilos thrived as an ancient trading center, specializing in herbal oils and medicines for which the island became well known. In Greek mythology, Tilos island derived its name from Tilos, the son of the sun god Apollo and Alia. He is said to have cured his mother from illness with herbs collected from the island. Wild herbs and flowers still thrive throughout the countryside, such as sage, chamomile, thyme, oregano, and a floral carpet of color blankets the island in spring with yellow marguerites, red poppies, and blue lupins.
Unique Island Flora and Fauna
Tilos has more than 125 wild bird species (one quarter of which are included in Annex I of the EU Birds Directive); 378 documented plant species [unofficial estimate exceeds 1,000], including 28 different types of orchids, 8 of which are classified as rare; six mountains reaching 654 meters in height which are dotted with 7 ancient castles and hundreds of Byzantine chapels; 19 beaches, which are accessible by road or only by sea or on foot; and an underground network of freshwater springs that nourish the entire island including the fertile agricultural valley of Eristos to the south. Tilos is surrounded by the blue Aegean which is populated with the critically endangered Mediterranean Monk Seal, Bottlenose and Striped Dolphnis, tuna, whales and priority marine habitat types such as the pseudo-steppe with grasses and annuals [Thero-Brachypodietea].
Eco-tourism and Agriculture
The island economy is primarily based on eco-tourism and also agricultural farming of fruits, vegetables, and citrus, olive, almond and pear trees. Island eco-tourism features 6 principle island walking paths that vary in distance and degree of ease or difficulty; Byzantine era churches with original frescoes; autumn and spring donkey rides through the countryside to a seaside picnic on the beach; a visit to the Harkadio Cave in Messaria which is the archaelogical site of the discovery of Neolithic tools, fossils and the bones of deer and dwarf elephants that inhabited Tilos in 7,000 B.C.; the magnificent 15th century monastery of St. Panteleimon at the west end; and bird watching, especially during the island’s three year LIFE Nature Project which is designed to increase the population of three threatened wild bird species.
Island Environmental Conservation
The Tilos Park Association, an NGO with an international membership, was founded in 2003 to develop and oversee the implementation of environmental conservation actions for the preservation of the natural island resources through socio-economic means. These actions include the promotion of the proposed Tilos Natural Park awaiting approval by the Hellenic government; the 2007 scheduled development of a wetlands for wildlife; the promotion of the use of cloth instead of plastic shopping bags to reduce plastic trash that seriously endangers local marine life; the maintenance of an Avian Recovery Center since 2004 which offers treatment, care and shelter for injured birds; the development of group and private eco-tours for 2007 conducted by local guides; beach cleaning activities with volunteers; and more.
The TPA publishes and distributes to more than 5,400 international readers a quarterly Journal which is designed to convey island news and information of European Union-wide importance. Subjects include island renewable energy actions in relation to the Kyoto Protocol aims, EU Tilos LIFE Nature Project actions and accomplishments, threatened wildlife rescues by island residents and visitors, governmental actions or interventions affecting this island SPA, and more. If you would like to subscribe free of charge, please send your e-mail address to the TPA at [email protected] and it will be our pleasure to add you to our list.
Island Hunting Ban
Since 1993, there has been an island hunting ban initiated and supported by the Tilos Municipality as well as the TPA which will continue until August 2007. The ban has enabled Tilos to preserve its natural environment enabling the population development of threatened resident and migratory wild bird species, such as the Eleonora Falcon (of which Tilos is home to 10% of the entire world population), Bonelli’s Eagle, Mediterranean Shag, Audouin’s Gull (one of the world’s rarest gulls), Roller, Blue-Cheeked Bee-Eater, Olive Tree Warbler, Cretzschmar’s Bunting, Long Legged Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Scops Owl, Common Kestrel and more. To express your support to the Tilos Hunting Ban, please, visit: http://www.petitiononline.com/proact02/petition.html
If you have any questions, please contact us at the Tilos Park Association by e-mail or at the Visitor Center in Livadia. We would be delighted to share with you all that our island has to offer.
Konstantinos Mentzelopoulos Director, Tilos Park Association Coordinator, EU Life Nature Tilos Project Livadia GR-85002 Tilos Telephone: +30-22460-70880 Fax: +30-22460-70892 E-mail: [email protected]