Cyprus Natural Environment

The coast of Cyprus is indented and rocky in the north, with long sandy beaches and numerous coves in the south.

The northern coastal plain is covered with olive and carob trees and backed by the steep limestone Pentadaktylos mountain range. In the south the extensive Troodos massif is covered with pine, dwarf oak, cypress and cedar trees. Seventeen per cent of the island is woodland. Between the two ranges lies the fertile Messaoria plain.

The flora of Cyprus is unique and constitutes a truly outstanding botanical heritage. With an estimated 1.800 species of flowering plants, 8% of which are found only on the island, it is a paradise for botanists.

The arrival of animals on the island has long been a subject of fascination for zoologists. Evidence suggests that the first animals were pigmy hippopotami and elephants which swam to Cyprus. Apart from certain species of mice and shrew, they remained the only inhabitants of the island until the arrival of man. The present-day fauna of Cyprus includes 25 species of mammals , 26 species of amphibians and reptiles, 365 species of birds (though only 115 breed on the island) and a great variety of invertebrates while the coastal waters of the island give shelter to 197 fish species and to various species of crabs, sponges and echinoderm.

The largest wild animal found on the island today is the moufflon (Ovis orientalis ophion), a rare type of mountain goat unique to the island. It is strictly protected and its population has revived from near extinction to about 2.000 animals at present. It is the symbol of the Republic of Cyprus and is used on its coins.

Each year Cyprus is used as a stopping off point by millions of migrating birds traveling between Europe and Africa, something that has been observed since Homeric times. The birds are attracted by the island's two salt lakes at Larnaka and Akrotiri.

Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005