Cyprus no man's land a haven for rare wildlife

Thu Dec 17, 2009 6:53am EST
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By Sarah Ktisti

NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) - A corridor of no man's land dividing Cyprus between rival Greek and Turkish Cypriot factions has become home to some of the island's more retiring inhabitants.

The unspoilt ribbon of land, which has been under the control of a United Nations peacekeeping force for the past 35 years, has become a haven for wildlife escaping from the threat of human intervention.

Finding out exactly which species are thriving in the buffer zone is the goal of a UN project which brings together researchers from both sides of the divide.

Since it began nearly three years ago, 358 plant species, 100 bird species, 20 reptile and amphibians and 18 mammal species have been observed in the 180-km (110-mile) strip.

"This is a live demonstration of what happens when nature takes over," said Nicolas Jarraud, co-ordinator of the project.

Within the buffer zone, created after the Turkish invasion of 1974 in response to a Greek-inspired coup, small villages once buzzing with life now lie empty.

Variseia in the northwest of the island is typical -- houses, the local school and the village coffee shop lie abandoned in the overgrown vegetation.

And, just as happened in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, when the humans move out, the animals move in.   Continued...