|An important biotope in Rhodes. The Butterfly valley.|
|Mika Michalaki, architect|
In Rhodes, just 25 kilometers away from the city centre, there is located a special and quite rare biotope, the Butterfly Valley. It consists of a unique ecosystem and an extremely beautiful landscape with paths, luxuriant vegetation, wooden bridges, small waterfalls, lakes and thousands of colorful butterflies. Its area reaches about 60 hectares, it extends alongside the Pelekanos deluge and it is a popular sightseeing site for the island. It is inscribed in the Natura 2000 network and it is distinguished for its unique flora and fauna.
During the summer months and more specifically from mid June to the end of September, thousands of butterflies which belong to the rare species of Panaxia Quadripunctaria, are housed in the valley and one can only find them in Rhodes and in a few other places around the world. The butterflies, due to the microclimate of the area, but also due to the existence of the zitia (name of a tree) and the ink that it discharges, gather, sleep and rest on the foliages, on the tree trunks and on the rocks, where they look for dew, humidity and food.
The Butterfly valley during the Ottoman years, due to its dense vegetation, remained inaccessible. During the next years and especially during the Italian period, major interventions were done for the clearing, the development and the exploitation of the area. After the war, the protection of the area was the responsibility of the Municipal Business of Dodecanese, later on of the Greek Organization of Tourism and then the Municipality of Rhodes. From 1991, the area belonged to the commune of Theologos, a small village in the western part of the island and later according to the Kapodistria’s Act, it was entrusted to the Municipality of Butterflies to which it belongs until today.
This area is a centre of attraction for many tourists but also for locals, as it is estimated that more than 700.000 people visit the valley during the summer months, in order to admire the enchanting site and to wonder around the unique natural environment. Most of the species that exist in the valley are nocturnal and thus during the day, they rest and remain still at one place, creating and forming colourful puzzles on the tree trunks and on the plants leaves.
Unfortunately, there are many people that by trying to make the butterflies fly, in order to see the colours of their wings and in order to admire them, disturb them and this results in them being frightened and in the attempt to escape they hit themselves on the trees or on the rocks and die. Indisputably, the large number of visitors has unpleasant consequences to the population of the butterflies and this results in their drastic reduction during the last years.
Furthermore, according to the Professor of the Department of Environment of the Aegean University, Mr. Margaris the disrupted humidity conditions of the environment, the large presence of goats, the landslides, the old trees and the degradated conditions, set back even more the situation and create inappropriate conditions for the survival of the butterflies in the area.
The preservation of this ecosystem is an imperative need and a responsibility of all of us. The Municipality of Butterflies, in co-operation with scientific groups from the Universities of Athens and Patras, is trying to preserve and protect this landscape, by giving emphasis to the saving and the recycling of water, to the carving of fire protection routes, to the protection of the paths, but also to the guarding of it and to the tree planting, the cleanliness and in general to the exhibition of the area.
Finally, in the Butterfly valley, one could visit the Museum of Natural History and the monastery of Madonna of Kalopetras.