Interview: Maro Voulgari
Alkyoni Association: Every life matters!
Respect for life with no exceptions, efficiency and organization, a quiet presence on the island, and a love for nature. On the occasion of the 26th anniversary of Alkyoni Wildlife Care & Protection Association’s establishment in Paros, we asked its president, Marios Fournaris, to answer our questions.
How and when was Alkioni set up? Who are its founding members and what was the purpose it was called upon to serve in the first place?
Alkyoni was founded in January 1995 by a small group of friends, establishing its headquarters in Paros and a network of resource persons across the whole of Greece, with the aim to care for and rehabilitate every injured, weakened or sick wildlife creature brought to its hospital. This very same small group of people keep at it to this day, 26 years later, having handled more than 16,000 wildlife care cases.
What is the vision behind the Association and what is the geographical radius you cover?
In Alkyoni we advocate respect for all life without exception. Alkyoni, along with Arcturos, is the only wildlife hospital in Greece with an operation permit. We also have the largest facilities in terms of size and capacity, spanning an area of 50,4 acres in Kamares of Paros. The initial idea was to geographically cover the South Aegean, but, out of necessity, and in cooperation with “Anima”, we cover the entire country.
What is the number one danger currently posing a threat to the island fauna?
Habitat destruction caused by overbuilding, wetland degradation, hunting, overfishing, pesticides, cat overpopulation and increased car usage – all these factors individually or combined affect the wildlife populations of the islands and keep impoverishing them, until only silver gulls and hooded crows are left. Besides all else, the main problem is the environmental ignorance on the part of the majority of people.
What is the predominant emotion you feel when you release an animal or bird back into the wild?
The joy and emotion experienced when releasing an animal we have cared for, as well as the sadness felt at the moment it loses the battle with death are recurrent emotions that do not fade with time.
Do you think we can train younger generations to appreciate every form of life? What kind of environmental education initiatives has Alkyone developed up to this point?
Since its inception, Alkyoni’s operation has been associated with environmental education, through either reception of school visits in a specially designed room in our facilities, or visits paid by Alkyoni’s staff to schools, often combined with bird releases. Depending on the time of year, we host three to ten schools a month on Alkyoni’s premises.
How can we stay updated with upcoming events? How can one become a member or volunteer?
Updates on Alkyoni’s actions are released on social media and we are about to launch our new website: alkioni.org. What is more, our sites are open to the public every day, except Sunday, from 11:00 to 13:00. Our visitors should know in advance that they will not be able to see live animals in Alkyoni. We communicate to the public our animal care functions always pinpointing the difference between a hospital and a zoo. The animals hosted at Alkyoni suffer from injury- and captivity-induced stress. Our absolute priority is to keep them alive, releasable and wild. This is impossible to pull through in the presence of visitors.
To become a member of Alkyoni you just need to contact the Association’s secretariat. The extend of one’s involvement with Alkyoni depends solely on one’s level of interest and availability. To become a volunteer at Alkyoni you can send us an email at: email@example.com and then we will contact you for briefing.
Alkyoni’s general programme is carried out by volunteers from April to October. During the winter months, we operate exclusively with permanent staff.