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This week's blog post takes us to northern Greece, where there is a project that wants to make a difference. There is a nature reserve there that is known for its actions not only in Greece but also in the Mediterranean in general. So let us dive in to learn more about their history and their actions.

The location

The nature reserve is called Arcturos and is a non-profit, non-governmental environmental organization (NGO). It was founded in 1992 and has since focused on the protection of wildlife fauna and natural habitat in Greece and abroad. It is located in the north of Greece in the region of Florina and more precisely near the beautiful village of Nymfaio.


The story behind the name

Behind the name, Arcturos is a beautiful story from Greek mythology. Once upon a time, there was a woman named Calisto and she had sworn eternal allegiance to a goddess named Artemis. But Zeus liked Calisto and wanted to sleep with her, so he disguised himself as the goddess Artemis. Their child was named Arcas, but Zeus knew this would make Hera (his wife) extremely jealous, so he turned Calisto into a bear! But when Arcas grew up, he went into the forest where his mother was and tried to kill her without knowing who she was. To protect them from each other, Zeus turned them into star constellations, the Major and the Minor Ursa. But Hera was still jealous and asked the god Ocean never to let the two of them enter his waters, which is why the Major and the Minor Ursa never sank. Finally, Zeus set up a guardian star to protect them from Hera's jealousy. This guardian star is called Arcturos and means the guardian of Ursa!

How it all began

At that time, Greece and other Balkan countries had a big problem with the captivity of certain animals used for "entertainment" purposes. So the foundation of Arcturos was born exactly from this need. At present, they have a complete framework of action. Among other activities of Arcturos, the focus is on scientific research, environmental education and raising public awareness on issues such as biodiversity and viability, while exerting political pressure based on complete programs and solutions. It is known that the organization collaborates with institutions from all over the world when it comes to environmental issues in the country.

Let us look at what they have accomplished.

In 1997, they put an end to dancing bears (a common form of entertainment at festivals in Greece and other Balkan countries) and helped ban the use of animals in circuses in Greece.

In 1993, they founded and operate special sanctuaries for former bears and wolves in captivity, and intervene in the planning of road layouts and technical constructions that are contrary to the protection of the environment.

They participate in the Mediterranean Program against the use of illegal and poisonous baits and enhance bare forest areas through reforestation (150,000 to date).

Finally, in 2005 they founded the National Bear Registry, which they maintain with DNA samples from bears (hairs) collected in special traps attached to power poles. They have established an emergency wildlife protection team.

Another important point to mention is that they are the best known and most trusted Greek environmental organization (Awareness and Social Behavior Index, 2012)!

Protected species

On their website, you can also find a list of nine protected species of Greece, about which you can get information and donate. Specifically, the animals that live in the protected area: wolves, bears, shepherd dogs, chamois, otters, deers, roe deers, jackals and lynxes.

What can we do?

Volunteers from all over the world are welcome in Arcturos activities! They welcome volunteers in the protected areas, in the offices and many other ways. There is also the possibility to go there with the European Voluntary Service. This website has a list of similar organizations that would appreciate your help if you are willing to help them ( ) if Greece is too far for you or if you prefer another country in Europe.

You can also watch this mini-documentary describing their work in detail!

This non-governmental, environmental organization (NGO) helps the environment and the animals of the area! It is a great example of people who work together voluntarily or not for common good! Search for something that suits you wherever you are and start being active now!

Written by Foteini Skiza.

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