Sea turtle hospital plans in Turkey's southern coast drawing environmental concerns

Sea turtle hospital plans in Turkey's southern coast drawing environmental concerns

Sea turtle hospital plans in Turkeys southern coast drawing environmental concerns

The İztuzu Beach Rescue Platform members have sent a letter to relevant ministries and the WWF to prevent the establishment of a hospital. DHA photo

A hospital for loggerhead sea turtles (caretta caretta) that has been slated for the world-famous İztuzu beach in Muğla has angered environmentalists, who argue that the initiative will upset the natural balance because it is too close to the animals’ breeding areas.

“We don’t understand why they insist on this hospital. We are not against the construction of the hospital, but we are against its location. We are ready to support if it is located anywhere else,” said İztuzu Beach Rescue Platform spokesperson lawyer Berna Babaoğlu Ulutaş.

Environmentalists have gathered nearly 17,000 signatures on 600 pages and sent them to the Forestry and Water Affairs Ministry, the Culture and Tourism Ministry, as well as the Paukkale University Marine Research and Rehabilitation Center, in an effort to prevent the hospital’s construction in the southwestern province’s Dalyan district. 

Sea turtle hospital plans in Turkeys southern coast drawing environmental concernsBreeding ground 

İztuzu is one of the main breeding grounds for endangered loggerhead sea turtles in the Mediterranean and is therefore often referred to as “Turtle Beach.” For this reason, the beach has had a protected status since 1988 and is part of the Köyceğiz-Dalyan Special Environmental Protection Area.

Another platform member, Murat Demirci, said the Forestry and Water Affairs Ministry had allocated a plot of 2.2 hectares in the İztuzu forest for the hospital project. Following this allocation, the forest was zoned for housing, which means that the habitat of endangered species could be destroyed. 

Demirci said 124 trees in the forest had been numbered with the approval of the hospital project. “The world-famous İztuzu beach is the natural habitat of endangered tadpoles and green sea turtles. The forested area, which begins right next to the beach, is home to an endemic species, known as Göcek martensiella luschani, which exists in Muğla only. This species is on the red list of the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN) because its habitat has been destroyed. The deforestation of this area means that its habitat will be destroyed, and this violates the Bern Convention of the Conversation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, which Turkey signed in 1984.” 

The group also sent a letter to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which previously reacted against the establishment of a hotel in the same place.

Minister determined

Environment and Urban Planning Minister İdris Güllüce, however, described the struggle against the establishment of the hospital as “fanaticism,” daily Milliyet reported. 

“I will build that building,” he said. “Fanaticism is very bad. There is an outcry about caretta carettas. The fanaticism of anything is bad, like the fanaticism of environmentalism. There is a non-healthy place in this area. Those carettas should have been treated. There is a freakish facility there; students come and have to go under the trees [instead of using a] toilet. This is disgusting. A new facility will be built there for these animals so that they won’t die. It will be on an area of 300-400 square meters.” 

He said it would not be a commercial facility, noting that a scientific council that treats the turtles was asking for the facility. 

“It will be a caretta hospital only, not a normal hospital or a restaurant or a shopping mall. I don’t have such an intention. And I don’t know if someone after me will be stupid enough to build these structures here,” he said.