Akrotiri Peninsula is home to a diverse range of habitats that support an equally diverse array of species.
Breeding populations of two species of sea turtles, the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and the Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas), use the turtle nesting beaches at Akrotiri. There are on average 22 nests per season of Caretta caretta and 4 of Chelonia mydas, since 1994 when systematic recording started. The turtles are also using the sea around Akrotiri Peninsula for mating and for foraging.
Schreiber’s Fringe-fingered Lizard
The Schreiber’s Fringe-fingered Lizard (Acanthodactylus schreiberi) is a common lizard at Akrotiri. Its preferred habitat is made of coastal dunes or light soil close to the dunes, but it can also be found in cultivated areas with sandy soil. This lizard is an important part of the food chain as it mainly eats insects and beetles, and it is eaten by many bird species and snakes. It is only found in Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey and it is listed as endangered because of its serious population decline.
Mediterranean Monk Seal (Monachus monachus)
Mediterranean Monk Seal is one of the rarest marine mammals in the world, with an estimated population of less than 700 individuals. It can only be found in the Eastern Mediterranean region and the Northwest African coast. The Mediterranean Monk Seal is usually found along coastal waters, especially on coastlines of islands, it spends most of its time in a limited range and does not migrate large distances. Female monk seals use caves with submerged entrances to give birth or rear their young. The sea caves at Akrotiri cliffs are one of the few remaining breeding areas in Cyprus for the Mediterranean Monk Seal.
Egyptian fruit-bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus)
The Egyptian fruit-bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) is the largest bat species in Europe and is strictly protected. The Egyptian fruit-bat occurs in patchy distribution across sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, the Middle East, and areas in south-west Asia. Cyprus is near the northern boundary of its range and is the only EU country that this species can be found. The Egyptian fruit-bat inhabits a variety of habitats, but is dependent on adequate supply of fruit trees and suitable roosting sites. Egyptian fruit bats roost in caves, as well as similar man-made structures like irrigation tunnels, ruins, and mines. The sea caves at the southern cliffs at Akrotiri host one important roost of the Egyptian fruit-bat.
Common Bentwing Bat (Miniopterus schreibersii)
According to data from the IUCN, Common Bentwing Bat occurs in south-western Europe, north and west Africa, the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa. It is a colonial bat species that roosts mostly in caves and mines as well as human-made tunnels, ruins, and some buildings. It uses a variety of habitats for foraging, ranging from open to semi-open natural and artificial habitats, including suburban areas. It feeds mainly on large insects. Common Bentwing Bats (Miniopterus schreibersii) have been recorded at two cave roosts within RAF Station Akrotiri.
Brachinella spinosa is a small shrimp-like crustacean, widely distributed in most brackish wetlands of the Mediterranean basin countries. In Cyprus it can only be found at Akrotiri wetlands, where it plays an important ecological role in the food chain. Flamingos, shelducks, avocets, Glossy ibises and other bird species are taking advantage of the winter abundance of Brachinella spinosa, by foraging intensively in the Salt Lake. This species is highly adapted to and dependent on the water cycle of the Salt Lake. It can persist prolonged dry periods, as it forms resistant cysts that can await suitable conditions to hatch. Besides water availability and quality, which are primary factors for the ecosystem of the wetlands at Akrotiri, the lifecycle of Brachinella spinosa depends largely on the seasonal variation of the water chemistry in the Salt Lake, particularly salinity and pH.
Dragonflies & Damselflies
Out of the 37 dragonfly and damselfly species we have in Cyprus, in Akrotiri one can observe 20 different species. Strong correlation has been observed between winter rainfall levels in the area and dragonfly abundance. Some interesting sites for dragonfly and damselfly watching are Zakaki Marsh, Akrotiri Marsh, Akrotiri Gravel Pits and Bishop’s Pool. Akrotiri Orchid Walk, near Akrotiri Environmental Education Center, is possibly the most important site in Europe for Lestes macrostigma (Dark Spreadwing). Other common odonatan species of the area include Sympetrum fonscolombii, Crocothemis erythraea, Orthetrum sabina, Trithemis annulate, Anax parthenope, Ischnura elegans.
Butterflies & Moths
18 species of butterflies have been recorded so far in the Akrotiri Peninsula, four of which are endemic species and subspecies. The open forest area and the semi-natural areas hold high butterfly species richness. Common butterfly species one can observe in the area are Vanessa cardui, Hipparchia cypriensis, Papilio machaon, Pieris brassicae, Polyommatus icarus, Lycaena phlaeas, Maniola cypricola, Leptotes pirithous.
There are far more moth species at the Peninsula, since 82 moth species have been recorded in the area. At the Eucalyptus Forest one can observe the most moth species. Common moth species in the area include Lasiocampa terreni, Micropterix cypriensis, Macroglossum stellatarum, Ocnogyna loewii, Catarhoe hortulanaria.
The Mediterranean Tree Frog (Hyla savignyi) occurs from Eastern Mediterranean areas to western Asia and southern Transcaucasia. Even though it is found in many kinds of habitats, freshwater wetlands are the most preferred ones due to the abundance of insect prey. The species goes in the water only for breeding. During the cold winter season (November – March), hibernation occurs on land, in burrows in the soil and other hiding places.
Large numbers of this frog species breed at the Akrotiri Marsh and in winter they migrate and/or hibernate in the surrounding areas, particularly to the north of the marsh. They are a significant part of the food chain representing an important food source for several important wetland birds. There are no data about these movements except observations in late winter/early spring, when big numbers come back to the marsh from the land in the north. Although this species is found in many other locations in Cyprus, Fassouri Marsh is the most important breeding area on island.
The Mediterranean Killifish (Aphanius fasciatus) is endemic to the Mediterranean and is distributed in all countries of this sea apart from the Iberic Peninsula. The Mediterranean Killifish (Aphanius fasciatus) is restricted to coastal waters. It is found in numerous habitat types, although mostly inhabits coastal waters such as lagoons, salt marshes, and first order stream in areas where submerged vegetation and/or filamentous algae grows thickly. It is listed in Schedule 2 to the Nature Ordinance, requiring protection and management through SAC designation. It is found mainly at Zakaki Marsh, but uses most of the wetland system up to Akrotiri Marsh. Akrotiri Peninsula is one of the very few areas hosting this species in Cyprus.