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Turtles Suffer Slow Death Trapped in Lake North of Athens

sea turtles
Loggerhead turtle. Credit: Funfood /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Residents in a community north of Athens discovered tens of dead turtles in a makeshift metal basket, at the edge of the man-made lake Beletsi on Saturday afternoon.

Members of the Ippokratios Politia community city council were summoned to inspect the scene. The community’s council secretary and a veterinarian, Panagiotis Pantos, said he was shocked.

“How can we ask to solve environmental problems and to protect the last lung of Attica when monsters are circulating among us?” Pantos said.


Some of the most important sea turtle habitats in the Mediterranean, located in Greece, “remain unprotected,” the Bern Convention has warned.

The Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats is an international body that covers nature conservation in Europe and North Africa.

Turtles renew water and artificial wetland

The turtles have been drawing visitors to Lake Beletsi for 45 years.  They were first transferred there from Lake Ioannina. According to Pantos, it was his father, Thanasis Pantos and George Nastos, who inspired the creation of the artificial lake in 1973.

The elder Pantos and Nastos followed the advice of expert biologists who urged them include sea turtles and eels in the lake, which spans about 80,000 square feet.  The presence of the turtles and eels helps to renew the water and the artificial wetland, added Pantos.

Work of sick person

The turtles were most likely  captured in a net and then trapped in the basket. According to Pantos, the turtles cannot survive out of the water so they must have been captured at least 24 hours earlier.

“We do not want to think that it is an organized plan to exterminate the sea turtles, but the work of a sick person,” he said. Pantos added that cameras may be installed to protect the area.

Ministers on the scene

Earlier in the day, Deputy Minister of Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias and the Minister of Environment Giorgos Amyras completed fire prevention inspection of the Ippokratios Politia community.

The wider area is also known as Agia Triada Afinades. It borders the former royal estate and summer palace at Tatoi and the Parnitha National Forest.  The community is at the center of the government’s fire prevention campaign with works currently underway across its 1900 acres.

Record number of sea turtles died in Greece in 2020

A record number of over 700 sea turtles died in Greece in 2020, according to a report published by ARCHELON, The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece, in early April.

The non-profit, which was founded in 1983 to promote the conservation of the delicate sea turtle species Caretta Caretta, or loggerhead sea turtle, in Greece, collected all reports of dead turtles from the Greek Coast Guard in 2020, which numbered over 700.

This is the highest number recorded since ARCHELON formed the Stranding Network in 1992, which locates the deceased marine reptiles and studies their cause of death.

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