LIFE ARCTOS/KASTORIA (LIFE09 NAT/GR/000333)
"Improvement of the conditions of coexistence of man and bears at the Region of Kastoria"
The district of Kastoria, in Greece, is of strategic importance for the brown bear, since it functions as a communication corridor between the bear sub-populations in Greece (the southernmost in Europe) and the Western Balkans. It also demonstrates a number of typical problems concerning the coexistence of bears and humans: traffic accidents on the A29 motorway, a segment of the Egnatia highway, involving bears and cars, as well as bears visiting settlements during winter and early spring, when natural food sources are scarce, and females are attempting to protect their young from males. This increases the risk of bear-human conflicts and causes fear and anxiety amongst the locals. Since 2009, Callisto has been working in partnership with local authorities and the Development Agency of Kastoria, to address these challenges and to improve conditions for bear - human coexistence.
Key actions, funded under the LIFE financial instrument, included the following:
- Modification of Environmental Terms and radical improvement of technical specifications in the part of the vertical axis of Egnatia Motorway "Koromilia-Kristalopigi" while it was under construction.
- Placement of the new reinforced bear-proof fencing on the vertical axis of the Egnatia Motorway "Siatista-Kristallopigi" in order to minimize the traffic accidents involving bears.
- Placing special signage and technical deterrents on the Vertical Axis of the 'Siatista-Kristalopigi' Egnatia Motorway in the old national and provincial road network of the prefecture of Kastoria (reflectors and signs), which significantly enhanced the safety of the motorway, helping to reduce its wildlife mortality due to road accidents (animal-vehicle collisions). The specifications for the technical means and their installation points have been provided by CALLISTO for a total of 22 signs and 5600 reflectors in the framework of the LIFE project.
- Formal institutionalization of the Bear Emergency Team (BET) and activation with a Joint Ministerial Decision of a single 'Protocol for dealing with the occurrence of interactions between Bear (Ursus Arctos) and man' by the Ministry of Environment.
- Radiotagging and tracking of 19 bears in order to take appropriate management measures in respect of road accidents, motorway mitigation structures (including new fencing) and the approach of bears to settlements.
- Operation of the BET, which successfully responded to 57 incidents.
- Development of a special program for volunteer activation and environmental education program.
These steps have reduced bear fatalities to 1-2 a year from the initial number of 8-9. This has helped improve public opinion of the bear. The project completion survey demonstrated that 76% of the respondents considered the use of prevention measures effective; 32% stated that they now actively participated in efforts to protect bears. The bear now has a more secure future in the area and the work is being expanded into other regions through a number of follow-up projects.
The actions were funded through the LIFE financial instrument and co-financing with a total budget of 1.030.000 € over the project lifetime. CALLISTO won the 'Natura 2000 Award for 2018' and the project LIFE ARCTOS/KASTORIA won the 'Best of the Best LIFE Projects 2016-2017 Award', mainly for the aforementioned achievements.