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Flamingos leave the wetlands in Bodrum

BODRUM - Doğan News Agency | 12/24/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Flamingoes did not flock to the Tuzla wetlands near the resort town of Bodrum this year, marking the latest blow to an ecosystem that faces the risk of disappearing.

Flamingoes did not flock to the Tuzla wetlands near the resort town of Bodrum this year, marking the latest blow to an ecosystem that faces the risk of disappearing.

The area was declared a special protection zone five years ago, but industrialization and urbanization in the region is putting the wetlands at risk. Marble plants and carpet washing factories have continued to operate in the area; their wastewater reaches the wetlands through the Mazı River.

More than 5,000 summerhouses were also built near the Tuzla wetlands, and all their wastewater is released into the lake. Once home to 120 species of birds and 50 species of fish, the wetlands now struggle to survive.

One of the most important wetlands in the Aegean region is the victim of a murder of nature and environment, according to Süha Umar, deputy president of the Foundation of Preserving Wildlife and Game.

Umar said the foundation filed complaints to the prosecutor’s office and the Muğla Governor’s Office against the industrial facilities that are destroying the area.

“The Tuzla wetlands are a unique asset that offers both historical and natural beauties,” he said. “While we are making plans to promote Tuzla and turn this spot into a popular tourism destination, some irresponsible people are turning the heaven into hell. I will do everything possible not to let them.”

Cüneyt Karaoğlu, a member of the Bodrum Volunteers Association, said flamingos did not come to the Tuzla wetlands this year for the first time. Karaoğlu noted that construction in the area has damaged the stability of the wetlands.

“The regulations regarding the protected areas have changed a few times in the last couple of years,” he said. “As a result of our inspections in the Tuzla wetlands, we found out that the number of animals in the area was decreasing, and we sent our reports to officials underlining the reasons for the decrease.”

Karaoğlu said precautions should be taken immediately; otherwise, he said, no animals will be left in the wetlands.

Bahattin Atçı, local governor of Milas, said the factories near Tuzla were warned last year not to release their wastewater into the Mazı River. “I will immediately send teams to the area to check the factories,” said Atçı. “We will severely punish anyone who poisons or damages the wetlands; no one should doubt that.”

The local governor said the former salt plant in the area would be converted into a cafeteria and bird watching house.

Tuzla Lake is formed by the deep inlet from the Gulf of Güllük and Mandalya Bay. Home to a host of ancient ruins, the lake is surrounded by mountains covered with olive groves, pines and tamarisk trees.

Designated an Important Bird Area, or IBA, in 2001, Tuzla Lake, dissected by a causeway, is particularly special as a natural bird sanctuary. Throughout the year, a large variety of rare birds including pelicans, flamingos and white storks can be seen flocking to the wetlands.

The IBA also covers the Güllük Delta, leading up to the Hamza Valley and following the Akyol River into Uyku Vadisi, or Sleepy Valley. Sleepy Valley is a natural preservation area among steep rocks, a forest of rich fauna and the Hamzabey River. It is called this because one feels sleepy as a result of the fresh, clean air in the region. This valley is now an official National Park.

The brackish waters of Tuzla Lake, less than a meter deep, provide vital nourishment for birds refueling on their long journey to and from Russia, Scandinavia, parts of Europe and Africa. It is rich in fish, algae and tiny creatures and fed by three fresh water streams. The lake attracts flamingos, grey heron, egret and numerous species of duck and goose. Although rare, 45 Dalmatian pelicans have been sighted here, as well as white pelicans, pygmy cormorants, spoonbills, and ospreys.

The varied nature of the lake's surroundings also makes it an important habitat for birds and other wildlife. Mud flats are alive with waders, including the rare terek sandpiper. Farmland, forest and hedgerows attract even more rarities such as the booted eagle and the saker and lanner falcon. The area also seems to have a special mild micro-climate so that the booted eagle and swallows were spotted in December when they should be in Africa. The Cyprus warbler, rarely seen this far west, is another visitor benefiting from warmer temperatures.

Apart from the myriad bird life of Tuzla Lake that numbers in the thousands and thousands in winter, more permanent inhabitants include terrapins, snakes, wild boar, badger, fox and porcupine.

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