The famous Iztuzu beach turtles of Dalyan have returned to one of their favourite nesting places in Mediterranean Turkey marking the beginning of the breeding season for 2017. Also known as the endangered Caretta Caretta or loggerheads turtles, the nearby hospital and sanctuary, DEKAMER kicked into action to aid their survivals by putting in place standard procedures to protect the nesting ground from predators.
Officially listed as a vulnerable species in danger of extinction, the Caretta Caretta loggerhead sea turtle lays eggs on beaches in more than 20 countries, yet their survival is threatened. Yearly adult females go to Iztuzu beach, kick-starting the peak mating season that runs for the duration of the early summer months. During the breeding season, a female can nest up to 5 months, every 17 days and each nest can include up to 130 eggs.
The incubation period of roughly 50 to 80 days, is when DEKAMER steps into help. Although a female, will try to disguise her nest, it faces high chances of sabotage by local species including foxes, dogs, cats, birds, and unfortunately humans.
So DEKAMER, the Sea Turtles Rescue, Rehabilitation and Research Centre implements round the clock protection to give each nest as much of a chance of survival as possible. Working with Pamukkale University for research and with the EKAD centre in Kemer, in 2016, they protected 628 nests, which sound like many turtles, but unfortunately, most do not survive into adulthood because of nature’s conditions.
DEKAMER is acutely aware of battling the forces of nature and predators, which could disturb the nests, but they are also keen to point out the danger of fishing lines and urge boat passengers not to tempt the turtles to the boat with food. Beachfront development that involves hotels with music and lights can also drive the turtles away to seek more peaceful areas.
An equally passionate voice protecting the turtles is Captain June, who along with David Bellamy and organisations like Greenpeace started the project to save the Iztuzu Beach turtle’s nesting grounds back in the 1980s.
Together they are more notably famous for stopping the construction of an 1800 bed hotel on the beach that could have utterly devastated the natural habitat and drove the turtles away. Nicknamed Captain June by the locals, she has dedicated her life to preserving Iztuzu beach in its natural state to let the ecosystem thrive.
The Turkish Environment and Urbanization Ministry also announced in May that in 2016, 91,242 baby hatchlings reached the sea. Even though Dalyan is an attractive touristic and expat destination in Turkey, it continues to be a home for the Iztuzu beach turtles thanks to the work of the DEKAMER centre, Pamukkale University, EKAD and Captain June.