Fieldfare migration puts juniper at risk

Fieldfare migration puts juniper at risk

Umut Erdem – ANKARA
Fieldfare migration puts juniper at risk

Illegal hunting and gunfire are indirectly causing the disappearance of juniper trees in Istranca Forest, a “traditional tree species of the Thrace region,” according to a wildlife activist who recently presented information about the predicament to the Parliament Animal Rights Research Commission.

The gunshots shatter the stillness of nature and drive away fieldfare, a type of large, colorful thrush whose feces are essential to the propagation of the juniper tree, an aromatic evergreen tree belonging to the cypress family.

“When I visit Istranca Forest, my eyes are filled with tears because the juniper is no more growing there,” Timur Ugan, the chairman of the Solidarity Animal Rights Federation (“Dayanışma Hayvan Hakları Federasyonu” in Turkish), told the commission.

“Due to the gunshots fired by illegal poachers, the fieldfare left the Thrace.”

Migrant thrushes such as the fieldfare feast on the berries of the fragrant juniper trees. Later, their droppings plant the seeds from the berries, begetting new juniper seedlings.

Seedlings are slow‐growing and take four to nine years to reach sexual maturity.

“We want the hunting to be banned indefinitely because wildlife in Turkey is at a point of extinction,” Ugan said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry allows hunters to kill only 39 kinds of animals, seven of which are mammals and 32 are birds, Ugan said.

“Only rabbit can be eaten [by humans] among mammals for which the ministry has given permission to hunt. And for birds, the only one is duck and a couple of similar other winged animals. Although others are not eaten [by humans] or their furs are not utilized, permission for hunting is given for mammals such as weasel, foxes, wild board, pine marten, beech marten and brown beer,” he said.

The number of instances of illegal poaching stand at “incredible figures,” said Ugan.

Agriculture and forestry officials caught registered hunters committing illegal poaching 6,972 times in 2018; the number of restricted wild animals that they shot was 7,170, he said.

Yet the fine for these violations is only 933 Turkish Liras ($160) per animal on average, he said.

Among these hunters, none has been referred to the prosecutor’s office for their action, said Ugan.

“The number of active hunters is 219,000. The fee they pay [to the state] is 200 liras per year, and the state revenues stand at about 40 million liras from these. Last year, 1,200 of our animals have been killed in hunting tourism. We are facing a crowd which is killing a big nature, a big wildlife for 200 liras,” he said.