Marine turtle conservation in Turkey

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > -Regions- > Mediterranean Sea

Europe/Middle-East > Southern Europe > Turkey

Akyatan coast and field camp. Turkey.
© WWF Turkey / Ayhan Çuhaci

Summary

The Akyatan lagoon on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast is one of the most important green turtle nesting beaches in the region and is a major wintering site for migrating birds.

The area also hosts a wide range of animals such as the golden jackal, which poses a major threat to the turtles as it hunts their eggs. But although the beach is relatively remote, it suffers from pollution.

WWF is monitoring the turtle’s nesting sites along the 22km-long Akyatan beach and working with local government authorities to improve marine turtle conservation.

Background

Akyatan, located near Adana, is a wildlife refuge under protection status of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) since 1987. The lagoon, forest and surrounding sand dunes cover an area of 15,304 ha and hosts a great variety of fauna and flora. It is one of the officially recognized 17 marine turtle nesting beaches located on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey.

WWF Turkey and WWF International were instrumental in highlighting the major nesting sites along the Turkish Mediterranean coast in the late 1980's through large scale monitoring and campaigning activities, and lobbying the Turkish government to declare protection status for many of them. The green turtle (Chelonia mydas) is a species defined as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN). The area hosts a wide range of mammals such as the golden jackal (Canis aureus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), jungle cat (Felis chaus), European badger (Meles meles), wild boar (Sus scrofa), elk (Cervus elaphus) and many birds of prey.

The Akyatan lagoon is a major wintering site for waterfowls. It was officially declared a Ramsar site in 1998 and is recognized as an Important Bird Area (IBA), and thus will be subject to the Birds Directive criteria when Turkey will join the European Union (EU).

In 2006 and 2007, WWF Turkey and the Local Directorate of Ministry of Environment and Forest of Adana initiated a marine turtle monitoring and conservation survey in Cukurova Delta in collaboration with the Adnan Menderes University. WWF Turkey's site-based monitoring activities during the summer of 2006 highlighted the strong impact of jackal predation on the turtle nests (approx. 590 nests were counted with approximately 100-120 eggs in each). WWF Turkey's team encountered many identified nests that were totally destroyed by jackals. It is very hard to prevent predation that is taken place at night along a 22 km coastline. The need to secure as best as possible the safety of the nests as soon as they are located is therefore very important to ensure the safety of the turtle eggs during the incubation period.

These studies were realized within the framework of a collaboration protocol established between WWF Turkey and the MoEF located in Adana. They represent a good example of cooperation between government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and universities.

Objectives

The overall objective is to maintain and secure a stable population of green turtles in the Mediterranean.

Specific objectives

- Establish a local office and camp site on Akyatan Beach.

- Monitor the 22 km-long Akyatan Beach from June to September, counting female turtle tracks, locating nest sites, and installing protective devices.

- Monitor the effect of preventive actions against predators on green turtles nests.

- Build capacity and raise awareness of the local government agencies on marine turtle conservation and wildlife.

- Organize monthly awareness activities for children and women of Kapi village.

- Organize communication activities at national and international levels.

- Complete final assessment to study results and define an integrated conservation strategy for green turtles in Akyatan.

Solution

It is anticipated that this project will achieve greater protection of the most important green turtle nesting site in the Mediterranean and will safeguard the population of this endangered species against land-based predators.

The prevention methods will be tested and assessed regarding their level of effectiveness. The outcomes will be communicated not only to Turkish academic circles and press, but also to the international community through international marine turtle websites and newsletters.

Achievement

58,000 hatchlings (94% of which are green turtles and the remaining loggerhead turtles) have successfully reached the sea.

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