Friends of Nature History
The Friends of Nature organisation was founded in Vienna in 1895.The group was founded by three activists, Karl Renner, a law student and future President of Austria, Georg Schmiedl, a schoolteacher, and Alois Rohrauer, a blacksmith. In the age of incipient tourism the organisation succeeded in making nature accessible to broader population strata by providing requisite recreational and travel facilities. Even then, the organisation's activities were aimed at getting people to beautiful natural settings, at awakening their love of nature and at imparting to them knowledge about nature and culture. Parallel with the rise of the modern industrialised society and of commercial tourism the Friends of Nature developed a professional commitment to nature and environment protection and had a major share in advancing the theory and practice of alternative forms of ecological tourism.
Activities between 2004 and 2009
Since the establishment of Friends of Nature Cyprus, the NGO has been involved in the following activities:
Organized visit of German environmental experts to Cyprus for a Workshop named “Sustainability for Cyprus” (Goethe Centre-Nicosia, October 2004)
The Workshop was sponsored by German Federal Environmental Foundation and German Federal Foreign Office. The Implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive 2000/60 and its Implications for the Environment, The Development and Implementation of Renewable Energies, Environmental Education and Communication in Germany and Cyprus, Implementation of NATURA 2000 in Cyprus, Sustainable Tourism - Examples from Europe and Implementation of the Local Agenda 21; Examples and Experiences were the main topics on debate.
Organized visit of environmental experts from Cyprus to a study tour for selected DBU projects in the northern part of Germany (June 2005)
The Study Tour was sponsored by German Federal Environmental Foundation DBU. Integrated Regional Development in the Eider Treene Sorge region, Lecture on Environmental Education at the Environmental Information Centre Eckernförde, National Park Wadden Sea, Nature Reserve for water birds Wallnau, Nieklitz Ecotechnology and Bionic Centre, DBU Headquarters in Osnabrück were the highlights of the visit. The objective of the study visit was to show examples of good practice in the field of nature protection,environmental education and sustainable tourism in the Province.
Organized hiking tours around Cyprus
Pentadaktylos / Besparmak Mountains, April 2006. During the tour, a group of people interested in the environment was informed about the flora and fauna of the area, including many endemics, for four hours. The tour included a visit to the Armenian Monastery.
Earth Day celebrations
Earth Day was celebrated by millions of people worldwide on 22nd of April including nongovernmental organizations, governments, communities, and local schools, among others, who come together to declare that they are part of something extraordinary: a worldwide movement to protect our planet, our children, and our future. During this day, many events are being organized around the world, including street fairs, festivals, and environmental seminars. The concept is to draw people’s attention to the environmental problems that our world is facing. It is also a day of celebration for all the services planet earth provides to us. This year, some countries have chosen the theme "Protect Our Children and Our Future. So far, Earth Day has not been celebrated in Cyprus. “Friends of Nature, Cyprus” has taken the initiative to celebrate this important day since 2006.
Biodiversity Day seminar
An “International Biodiversity Day Event” was organized in the buffer zone on 22 May 2008. This event was selected to commemorate International Biodiversity Day by presenting projects and activities related to various aspects of the biodiversity of Cyprus to a bi-communal audience. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness about the importance of the biodiversity of Cyprus. The project ‘Biodiversity of the buffer zone in Cyprus’ was presented, the work of the Society for the Protection of Turtles (SPOT) and the work of Animal Responsibility Cyprus (ARC) for the protection and conservation of bats. In addition, there were general presentations about bird watching and plants and habitats.
Becoming member of Sustainable Environmental Platform (SUCE)
Friends of Nature, Cyprus, became one of the NGOs in the “Sustainable Environmental Platform (SUCE)”. Under this structure, the members of the Platform have been engaged in some forms of protests including street demonstrations against the unsustainable development in the Karpass Peninsula, bringing electricity to the areas where the turtles leave their eggs and the killing of wild donkeys within the protected areas of the Karpass Peninsula. Moreover, the Platform members gave their opinion about the legislation of “Karpaz National Park” which was prepared by the government officials that was aiming at opening the area to mass tourism. As a result of this initiative the legislation failed to be passed; however, it is pending before the Parliament. To this end, SUCE Platform remains focused on the issue.
Running project on sustainable tourism
The project entitled ‘Raising awareness among local communities about the benefits of sustainable tourism’ was funded by UNDP-ACT and organized by the Institute of Earth, Ocean, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences at Near East University, Friends of Nature Cyprus and International Friends of Nature. Experts from Cyprus and Dr. Christian Baumgartner and Ms Andrea Lichtenecker from International Friends of Nature, gave presentations about sustainable tourism at five events organised at four villages in the Turkish and Greek Cypriot communities.
The first event, “The financial and social benefits of ecotourism” was organised at Oroklini village (Larnaca District), on 17 October 2007. The village was selected due to the presence of an important lake (Oroklini Lake) in the area which supports a variety of protected bird species. The purpose of the debate was to promote the idea that the local community could benefit by protecting the lake and encouraging the development of ecotourism in their village. The Manager of Akrotiri Environmental Education and Information Centre, located at one of the most important wetlands in Cyprus, and the Executive Secretary of the Cyprus Agrotourism Company were invited to give presentations. In addition, the mayor requested that the project coordinator (Iris Charalambidou) who is a bird expert give a short presentation highlighting the importance of Oroklini Lake for birds. The mayors’ office organised the venue and publicity for the debate, also snacks followed by a meal for the speakers and members of the local council.
The second event, “Nature Trails – Tracking Down Cyprus’ Natural Treasures” was organized at Kalyvakia / Kalavaç village (Nicosia District), on 19 October 2007. The village was selected because it has been chosen by the EU as a model village to be developed for ecotourism. The purpose of the debate was to inform the mayor and the local community about how they could benefit from a good management and marketing strategy for their village and its surroundings. Therefore, Ms Andrea Lichtenecker gave a presentation about Natura trails and how they have been used to support sustainable regional development in Austria. The second speaker was the mayors’ brother. The local authorities of the village organised the venue for the debate as well as a barbecue at which all event participants were invited.
The third event, “Nature Trails – Tracking Down Cyprus’ Natural Treasures” was organized at Komi Kebir village (Famagusta District), on 20 October 2007. This debate was organised for the benefit of a bi-communal group of educators participating in the ‘Environmental Education for Educators Camp’ as one of the activities they participated in was a 2-hour walk on a nature trail. Therefore, Ms Andrea Lichtenecker gave a presentation about Natura trails and participated in the full 2-day programme of the camp. This gave the opportunity to the camp participants to have discussions with her and ask questions during the camp. The debate was followed by dinner at the venue.
The fourth event, “The financial and social benefits of ecotourism” was organized at Pomos village (Paphos District), on 2 November 2007. The village was selected due to the relatively little development that has taken place there so far, giving it an unspoilt image. Also, its proximity to the sea and Paphos Forest offer possibilities for ecotourism development. The purpose of the debate was to discuss with the local community the potential of their village to develop ecotourism and discuss possible areas of focus for small businesses in the village. Dr. Christian Baumgartner gave a presentation about examples of successful businesses based on ecotourism in other countries that could be adapted for the local conditions in Cyprus. The second speaker was the Secretary of the Cyprus Agrotourism Company who presented examples of businesses based around traditional Cypriot houses and buildings. The debate was followed by a meal with the mayor and members of the local council.
The fifth event, “The financial and social benefits of ecotourism” was organized at Komi Kebir village (Famagusta District) on 3 November 2007. The village was selected because of some local ecotourism initiatives that have been taking place there for the last 10 years by three members of the local community and the existence of a local council to promote ecotourism in the village. The purpose of the debate was to discuss with the local community possible areas of focus for small businesses in the village. Dr. Christian Baumgartner repeated the presentation from the fourth event. The second speaker was the project supervisor (Salih Gücel) who is well known in the village and who presented ideas for sustainable tourism initiatives in the general area of the village. Snacks were offered during the debate followed by dinner at the venue.
Study on the biodiversity of the buffer zone in Cyprus
Participating in the UNDP-ACT funded project “Biodiversity of the buffer zone in Cyprus” in which one of our experts is conducting bird studies. As part of this project we produced a wildlife calendar for 2008, in cooperation with the Turkish-Cypriot Biologists Association. The photographs were donated from amateur photographers from both communities in Cyprus. In addition, we are upgrading our website through involvement on this project.
Cyprus Environmental Stakeholder Forum registration
Becoming members of the Cyprus Environmental Stakeholder Forum which is a bi-communal multidisciplinary network / platform of environmental stakeholders. Among other things the forum aims to advocate locally and at international events an agreed list of common environmental priorities for Cyprus. The forum is supported by UNDP-ACT, the Union of Chambers of Turkish Cypriot Engineers and Architects (KTMMOB) and the Cyprus Technical Chamber (ETEK).
Contributing Climate Change Conference of November 2009 Organised by German Cyprus Forum
The bi-communal Climate Change Conference was organised in collaboration of German Cyprus Forum and Friends of Nature, Cyprus in Nicosia Buffer Zone between 26 and 27 November 2009. During the three days of the conference the most urgent questions arising from climate change were discussed. More than 90 scientists, specialists and nature friends showed great interest to the Conference across the divide. A special focus was put on Cyprus, which would be affected harshly by climate change and global warming due to the island’s geographic location. Following the conference, the German participants visited various natural protection areas and were guided on a nature trail to see the endemics and the herbarium of the island.