Mount Ararat home to rare species, squirrels
Mount Ararat, Turkey’s highest mountain, is home to Anatolian ground squirrels and an extraordinary wildlife.
Various bird species, predators, mammals, reptiles and many rodent species are also living on Mount Ararat.
Mount Ararat has a snow-capped peak that towers over eastern Turkey, Iran and Armenia. It is where the Bible says Noah landed his ark after the flood.
Thanks to its flora and fauna dotted on thousands of acres of land, the mountain provides a unique living environment to wild animals, some of which are not known by people.
The Anatolian ground squirrels, which live in the region but are rarely seen, have been drawing great attention.
Iğdır Forestry and Water Affairs Director Mete Türkoğlu said the squirrel species lives on a wide geography but are rarely seen.
“This species is generally found in the region starting from the Caucasus region to Iraq, Syria and even Palestine. In Turkey, they live across the eastern provinces of Kars, Erzurum, Iğdır and Ağrı as well as in the Central Anatolian region,” he said.
He said the squirrels had many reasons to choose Mount Ararat and its vicinity. “They generally prefer dry lands; places far from water and moisture, but where people are. The reason why they are seen especially during these months is that they spend half of the year sleeping. They normally prefer to eat grass but when they cannot find food, they eat slugs and birds,” he added.
Making a better soil structure
Türkoğlu said Anatolian ground squirrels had many benefits on nature along with their contribution to the visual beauty of the region.
“These squirrels provide a better soil structure by fertilizing soil and forming corridors. The reason why Mount Ararat offers a living space for these animals is that it is rich in terms of flora, fauna and the food chain,” he added.
İsmail Palay, a local, said the squirrels were getting used to new people, mostly visitors coming to see them. “They got used to people, they don’t escape from them. And nobody hurts them. Even when people come here to have picnics, they get close to people, and are sometimes even fed by them,” he said.
İdris Demirel, a local nature photographer, said they’ve captured photos of Anatolian ground squirrels, seen particularly in the spring.
“We are taking photographs of various wild animals and birds in the region. Squirrels are one of these animals. We get very good visuals of squirrels. Since they are rarely seen by people, these squirrels draw great attention. This is pretty good for wildlife photographers and nature photographers. They can take photographs of these animals at the foot of Ağrı Mountain, Iğdır and the Doğubeyazıt district of Ağrı,” he added.