Cres Island is a very interesting place from the point of view of cultural heritage (if it's known that island's history goes back to 4000 years) as well as with its natural features.The legends say that islands of archipelago of Cres (Cres and Losinj) were the spilled dragon's teeth - Apsyrtus; to its legend connects a legend of wandering Odysseus and his stay on island. Despite of all changes, Cres remained sparsely populated island, the island where legends still live today - fabulous pictures of the beauty of pre biblical time, clear, freshwater lake in the middle of island, the mountains in winter occasionally covered with snow and the oak forests in the north and the pastures in the karst in the middle part.
Here begins the story of the great Cres birds - griffon vultures. Because of fascinating flying and mysterious and wonderful way of life, the griffon vulture is a holy bird for millenniums, royal and, in general, the symbol of rule, amazing creature, and even a divine incarnation. Eurasian griffon was a sacred symbol of the ancient Egyptians, Akkadians, Assyrians and Babylonians. Griffon vulture is associated with places of Buddha's enlightenment, connection with the higher world and with sky, and in Tibet is still present custom so-called celestial burial, ie. when the pieces of dead body are given to griffons that carry it to the heights and allowing it to fly. Parsi, today's followers of Zoroaster, respectively according to his teaching, follow some of the practices associated with the cult of these amazing birds. Fascination with the griffon's flying and the feeling of his connection with the higher, beyond this world, was even for the old Greeks and Romans an important moment of spirituality. In many ways the griffon is still a bird that succeeds to fascinate all and not only nature admirers. Eurasian griffon (Gyps fulvus) is one of four species of vultures that lives in Europe, but also the only one who lives in Croatia. The other three species - Gypaetus barbatus, Aegypus monachus and Neophron percneptorus - for a long time do not live in our region.
Kvarner griffon vulture is special because raises the nests on the vertical cliffs, sometimes just ten meters above sea level. This griffon is one of the largest flying birds, with the wingspan from 2.40 to 2.80 meters, a weight of 8 to 12, sometimes up to 15 kilograms. He can live even fifty years. The female lays one egg a year, and during the incubation period, which lasts 48 -50 days, the male and the female alternate at egg. The cub feeds for months before it sets off on its first fly. Griffon vulture can reach the speed of 120 km / h and reaches a height of several kilometers. Evolution of these birds has been going on for millions of years, but lately depends on a man. Griffons, namely, follow the man - a shepherd and his sheep and eat those that are perished or died naturally in the rocks.
Griffons were lived in almost all Croatia once. At the beginning of the 20th century they lived in Slovenia, Dalmatia and Istria, however today there are only on the Kvarner islands - only 120 pairs - and within the National Park Paklenica - one pair (!?). Besides, today is a man the only natural enemy of griffons. Ekocentar Caput Insulae was founded in spring 1993 in Beli, a small, but very old town in the northern part of Cres Island. The name Caput Insulae was taken from the Roman name for Beli, which was a fortress and a resting place for veterans then. Hence the title wants to highlight the value of cultural and historical heritage and of human life for thousands of years in this area. Ekocentar directs its activities toward education and revaluation of cultural, historical, natural and traditional values of island, as well as Croatia entirely.
One of Ekocentar's intentions is the protection of natural and cultural heritage of karst - sinkholes. The study of biodiversity in these areas is an important project of Ekocentar. The protection of the griffon vulture is one of the most important projects of Ekocentar. Scientists and volunteers are studying colonies of griffons and try to preserve the stability of the population. They regularly mark griffons and try to identify the matrix of their migration and factors that affect the maintenance of the species. The ultimate goal is the study, but also the protection of one of the most endangered species of vultures and animals in general in Europe. Leader of project protection Ph. D. Goran Susic, was awarded with the prestigious prize for ecology Rotarian Robert Kelner for the year 1997/1998. During the Rotary year 1999 / 2000 the initiation of Rijeka's Rotarians resulted in success and the project protection of griffon vultures has found its place in the family of Rotary International projects. Rotary Club Rijeka has supported the project for the protection of griffon vultures until 2000.
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