Long-Awaited Wildlife Corridor Becoming Reality In Turkey

Majestic Mt. Ağri presides over Turkey’s Kars region, one of the world’s richest biodiversity areas and the entrance to a new protected area in eastern Anatolia.

The large mammals of Turkey aren’t doing so well these days. As new developments have eaten up more and more of their habitat, leaving them stranded in island forests, their food sources have dwindled and their encounters with human predators have risen.

For the past four years, Çağan Şekercioğlu has been lobbying the Turkish government to create a protected corridor for the country’s diverse wildlife, with the support of various international foundations. Last month, Turkey’s Ministry of Forestry and Water Works finally approved a plan for the corridor.

Turkey’s biggest active landscape conservation project yet

The final corridor will extend from Kars’s Sarıkamış Forest-Allahuekber Mountains National Park down to the Caucasus forests on Turkey’s border with Georgia, reports  Şekercioğlu in a recent article for National Geographic.

Were it a national park, the size of the wildlife corridor would make it the 15th largest out of Turkey’s 40. Just two-thirds of the corridor’s 23,500 hectares of land contain existing forest; the remaining third will be reforested to connect the isolated populations of large carnivores. Expanding the animals’ territory won’t just help them — it will reduce the number of human-carnivore encounters, lowering the risk of harm to humans and wildlife alike.

Reforesting the corridor will take approximately ten years, according to Şekercioğlu. “This is the biggest active landscape conservation project ever undertaken in Turkey,” he writes in the article.

Inspiring the nation-wide environmental movement

The corridor isn’t just a victory for Şekercioğlu and the other groups that have been pushing Turkey’s government to better protect the wildlife in its borders.

Şekercioğlu hopes that his success will inspire other conservationist movements to enact similar projects in their parts of the country. Turkey’s government has taken small steps toward conservation in the past, such as when Prime Minister Erdoğan stated last year that he wouldn’t allow new major highways to be built unless they had bridges for wildlife to cross over.

For major change to occur, however, Turkey’s eco-minded citizenry and community of NGOs must make their voices heard.

Turkey’s existing environmental laws are weakly enforced, according to Şekercioğlu, which is partly why it received the abominable rank of 109 out of 132 countries in the 2012 World Environmental Performance Index, and 121 out of 132 in biodiversity and habitat conservation in particular.

 

:: National Geographic

Read more about conservation in the Middle East:

7 of the Saddest Wildlife Stories from the Middle East

In Remotest Anatolia, Lone NGO Speaks Up On Nature’s Behalf

 

Helping Turkish Wildlife Cross The Road

Image via Çağan Şekercioğlu

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