Shortage of staff to protect wildlife in Turkey: Official

Shortage of staff to protect wildlife in Turkey: Official

Umut Erdem – ANKARA
Shortage of staff to protect wildlife in Turkey: Official

A senior official at the Agriculture and Forestry Ministry has complained about the shortage of staff protecting the wild animals in Turkey during a presentation to parliament’s Animal Rights Research Commission.

“Many species in the nature have dwindled. For example, the number of chevrotains should be 200,000-250,000 in Turkey, but it is only 35,000; the number of gazelles should be 600,000, but it is only 16,000; the number of mountain sheep should be 600,000-700,000, but it is only 20,000. Why is this the case? This issue is followed by the General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parts. We are supposed to undertake this protection with forest security public servants, but how many of them are left? Only 250 and they are also retiring,” said Erdem İsmetoğlu, the directorate’s vice president, on May 22.

“We do not have the needed staff for protection [of wildlife]. We have numerous times asked for [the appointment of] forest security public servants. Our team is limited and we are saddened by this. Their number should be at least 3,000,” İsmetoğlu said.

The official said that one of the reasons that led to the decrease of fallow deer in the forest unit of Düzlerçamı in the Mediterranean province of Antalya is the municipality staff collecting and then leaving street dogs in mass numbers all alone in this area.

“Fallow deer is a species unique to Antalya’s Düzlerçamı. We have put them under protection, but the dogs that have been thrown here have become wild and started to eat fallow deer’s babies. Normally in that area as well as in suburban places and in villages dogs did not exist previously in mass numbers in groups…But this situation has arisen to the throwing [of the municipality] the dogs from cities to rural places,” said İsmetoğlu, demanding that the municipalities that do this should face “monetary sanctions.”

İsmetoğlu also touched upon the situation of stray animals, emphasizing the importance of neutering to keep them under control in numbers. “There are 2 million strays [in Turkey]. If 500,000 strays are neutered a year [in Turkey], instead of 200,000, there will be no strays left in three years that have not been neutered,” he said.

“One million strays need to be neutered, and this needs to be done fast. If the neutering procedure stays at this pace, we’ll spend 300 million Turkish Liras in the upcoming 10 years and the number of strays will go up to 3 million,” he said.

An academic at Ankara University’s Veterinary Faculty suggested the establishment of an “Animal Ministry.” “Right now the surveillance regarding this issue is zero, I can say. The supervisions of the municipalities are loose. Higher management in the municipalities need to be exposed to criminal liabilities. Dogs are killing people. This is a problem that the municipalities have been causing in terms of management,” said Oytun Okan Şenel.

Meanwhile, authorities from the Antalya Metropolitan Municipality have denied the remarks directed at them by İsmetoğlu. “Our municipality has a massive animal shelter. It does not need this [to collect and throw the animals into suburban places] and that it committed such an action cannot be thought of. Fallow deer is the symbol of Antalya,” they said.

“Many of the district municipalities of the Antalya center similarly have animal shelters. They are also sensitive to animal rights. When they take an animal, they do their vaccination and leave them at the spot they found them. Antalya is an animal-friendly place. We have even a big zoo. The official [İsmetoğlu] has not indicated which municipality he was referring to in his statement. Maybe the dogs were brought from nearby cities,” said officials.