Gabriela Staebler is a successful and award-winning nature photographer. She nurtures a soft spot for African wildlife and has travelled extensively in the wild and to national parks for the last 30 years. There she takes photographs of wild animals in their natural environment.
Staebler has developed a special relationship to big cats. By chance she became aware of the numerous house cats on Hydra. Several years ago, she stopped in the harbour of the Greek island while on holiday sailing with her partner.
The cats were all over the place and immediately caught her attention. Intrigued, she sought more information and found out that the island had faced a big cat problem in the 80s. At that time, many starving and neglected cats lived on Hydra because they were large in numbers but did not have enough food. The island fell into disrepute with tourists.
Programs were set up to control the problem. But only with the voluntary commitment of the islanders and the establishment of “HydraArk”, a non-governmental organization, the situation changed. Since 2007, volunteers take care of the cats and other animals.
The most important goals are to control cat numbers and to improve their health. The cats are fed and receive medical treatment. Especially in the winter months this is very important. Meanwhile, numbers are largely under control. Nowadays the wild cats on Hydra attract tourists. Money and support are, however, still needed.
Gabriela Staebler makes a contribution to the welfare of cats in her own way. She collected information and took pictures on the island for over two years. She visited Hydra at least nine times. The result is a wonderful coffee table book with the catchy title “Island of the Cats – Hydra” (Edition Reuss).
On display are 320 evocative, beautiful photographs of the island, the cats living there, donkeys, people and houses. The book is written in three languages – English, German and Greek – and comes to about 250 pages with little text. Nevertheless, it contains a lot of useful information about Hydra and its inhabitants. According to Staebler, she donates 75% of the sales of the book to HydraArk.