Nature has woven a rich tapestry in Cyprus. The Dwarf Cyprus Elephant and Hippopotamus remain only as fossils, but we still have over eight-and- a-half thousand species of animals and plants to delight you, some of which are unique to the island.
The Animal on Our Coins
You may, unwittingly, already have come face-to-face with the Cyprus mouflon as the animal represented on our issue of the euro 1, 2, and 5 cent coins. Ancient mouflon are considered by some to be the world’s ‘mother of all sheep’ and the impressive species endemic to Cyprus is the largest of the island’s non- domesticated mammals. A protected species, it can (if you’re lucky) be seen in the wild in the forests of Paphos. However these impressive creatures are shy, move quickly and are incredibly agile. They have remarkable curved horns which, in an adult male can be up to about 60 cm long. From excavated mosaics, it appears that the mouflon was very well known on the island during the Hellenistic-Roman period.
The riches from two special trees
Carob and Olive trees hold the culture and tradition of our island in their roots (or maybe we should say ‘fruits’). Fragrant olive oil is an important part of the Mediterranean diet; whole or sliced olives feature in Cypriot bread, pies, pastries, salads… and even cocktails. Since Mediaeval times, the island has also been famous for its carob trees, exporting pods, thick syrup and carob gum while carob seeds gave their name to the jewellery weight known as a ‘carat’. Carob mills were features of countless villages, though many have now been converted to restaurants or museums.
The Shy Pink Lady
A protected species, the endemic Cyprus cyclamen is our national flower. A small delicate perennial, its fragrant pink and white flowers appear in the cooler months, with the plant going dormant in summer – hiding all above-ground evidence of its existence. Typical of cyclamens, the nodding flower faces downwards, making it appear reluctant to face the curious world.
Birds of a feather
Of 374 species found on the island, two birds are endemic – the Cyprus Warbler and the Cyprus Wheatear. The Wheatear’s main claim to fame is that it was featured on the country’s old ten pound note. Cyprus is also known for the many migratory birds passing through each year, attracting ornithologists from across the globe. The wetlands of Limassol and Larnaca are famous for the pink flamingos which visit annually (an estimated 15,000 were counted in mid January) and a rare black flamingo has also been spotted. www.english.akrotirienvironment.com
National Parks – nature at your feet
A trip to the impressive Visitors’ Centre at the Troodos Geopark will intrigue you with its illustrated history of the ancient geology of Cyprus ‘in a nutshell’, with stories alongside of the island’s famous copper mining. The nearby Leventis Botanical Garden has transformed the site of a former asbestos mine into an amazing botanical garden, where you can see 92 of the island’s 143 endemic plants – 37 of which are only found in this location. The Cavo Greko National Park, on the south-eastern tip of the island (between Agia Napa and Protaras) is home to about 400 plant species, including around 14 endemics. Many of the 36 different orchid species growing on the island are found here, as well as crocuses and irises. 14 indigenous species in the park are considered rare. The fauna include foxes, hares and hedgehogs, several species of snakes and lizards, and numerous butterflies.