The British Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia comprise those parts of Cyprus which stayed under British jurisdiction and remained British sovereign territory when the 1960 Treaty of Establishment created the independent Republic of Cyprus.
They cover 254 km2, 123 around Akrotiri, the Western Sovereign Base Area (WSBA) and 131 around Dhekelia, the Eastern Sovereign Base Area (ESBA). Because they are run as military bases, the Sovereign Base Area Administration (SBAA) reports to the British Ministry of Defence in London, rather than the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They are a British Overseas Territory with a civilian administration working under an Administrator who is Commander of the British Forces, Cyprus. The Chief Officer, Administrative Secretary, Resident Judge, Chief Constable and other senior officials are recruited from or seconded from UK departments. The administration of the Bases exists to ensure the effective use as a military base; the full co-operation with the Republic of Cyprus; and the protection of those resident or working in the Bases. The laws deliberately match those in the Republic of Cyprus, where practicable.
The SBAA is responsible for protection of the environment in the Bases, working with the relevant Cypriot Republic departments. Work includes protecting breeding endangered loggerhead Caretta caretta and green turtles Chelonia mydas, which nest here. The only remaining colony of griffon vultures Gyps fulvus on Cyprus is found on the cliffs at Episkopi in the WSBA, and there is a large colony of Eleanora’s falcons Falco eleonorae both here and on the cliffs bordering the Royal Air Force station at Akrotiri. The most important wetland on the island of Cyprus, Akrotiri salt lake, lies within the WSBA and is a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.
Twenty seven habitat types are recognised across this spectacular mosaic of marshland, salt lake, coastal and marine areas. Two hundred species of migratory birds use the wetland for over-wintering or breeding, such as over 30,000 greater flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus demoiselle crane Anthropoides virgo, various migrant waders, black-tailed godwit Limosa limosa, blackcap Sylvia atricapilla, alongside many resident species. The Bases support hundreds of plant species, many of which are rare or endemic such as Achillea maritime, Lotus cytisoides and Mesembryanthemum crystallinum. They also contain hundreds of invertebrates, including nearly eighty endemic insect species, and various reptiles and amphibians, some of which have a disproportionately high importance here due to the reduced habitat elsewhere in Cyprus.
Read more about the wildlife, history and cultural heritage of all of the UK Overseas Territories in the 704 page Britain’s Treasure Islands book (CLICK HERE).
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Akrotiri and Dhekelia – wildlife and heritage