A group of European experts in a sea turtle conservation programme was asked by police to leave a beach in Argaka on Thursday, after locals showed up and pestered the visitors.
(Click here for an update to the story)
On Thursday, a handful of experts went to Argaka beach in Polis Chrysochous Bay, Paphos district, in order to inspect the area and place wire cages for the protection of sea turtle nests.
During their visit, according to Philenews, the group received a phone call from the local representative in the community, asking them to leave the area citing lack of permission to access the beach.
The experts ignored the request to leave, with reports saying the group had received authorization from the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research.
The local representative stood in the sand right on top of a turtle nest and prevented the conservationists from placing wire cages for protection
But moments later the Argaka representative, identified as the local community leader, confronted the visitors and asked them again to leave. The local man also stood in the sand right on top of turtle nests and prevented the conservationists from placing wire cages for protection.
Reports said the Argaka leader kept telling the visitors there were no turtle eggs and asked them to remove sand to prove it.
Other locals also were seen pestering the experts including a male visitor who was recording the confrontation on camera. The man warned locals to stay away, as they were trying to grab his camera and asking him to stop filming.
Police, who were called to the scene, later said there was a “minor altercation” between the visitors and the locals, adding that officers obtained statements from the experts regarding the alleged obstruction they had to endure during the incident.
Police ask experts to leave area
It later turned out that police had asked the experts to leave the area to avoid further escalation.
But local conservation groups and NGO’s, BirdLife Cyprus, took issue with the way police handled the incident.
“One thing is clear time and time again: authorities are failing miserably to protect nature at all levels. Incidents like the one yesterday can only provoke and cause anger. Shame on those who disregard the law and rage towards all those who fail to uphold it,” the statement read.
The wider area has been in the news following a number of activities reported along the beach, including placement of beach beds in areas where they are not permitted. The removal of acacia trees in nearby Mavralis also sparked controversy, with environmental groups crying foul citing big commercial interests behind the clearing of the area.