Bridging Divides to Protect the Environment During and Beyond the Pandemic

Devoid of human habitation since a 1974 war that spawned the country’s ethnic cleave, Varisia, an abandoned village inside a U.N. buffer zone that cuts across ethnically divided Cyprus. Is a buffer zone that has become an unofficial wildlife reserve in the last several decades. This 120 mile no-man’s land divides the island’s breakaway north from its internationally recognized south, and is home to many endangered and rare animal and plant species that have flourished in recent decades.

This unlikely refuge has been embraced by two environmental scientists, one Greek Cypriot and one Turkish Cypriot, as an open-air laboratory where complex politics and physical divisions can be put aside to focus on the overriding concern of protecting the parched country’s fragile ecosystem. Before, throughout, and beyond the pandemic Greek Cypriot Iris Charalambidou and Turkish Cypriot Salih Gucel, both biologists, have led a pioneering survey in 2007 that explored the thriving flora and fauna inside the buffer zone.

This partnership and the resulting survey garnered international accolades and provided impetus to a budding ecological consciousness-raising on the island. It also underscored the need for cooperation for the sake of what all Cypriots share — their environment and serves as a model for our global community.

Read more about Drs. Charalambidou and Gucel and their efforts at