Nihat Özdal, the Halfeti City Council President in Şanlıurfa province, voluntarily takes care of the Euphrates softshell turtles (Rafetus euphraticus), which are an endangered species living near the Euphrates.
The Euphrates softshell turtles, also known as the Mesopotamian softshell turtles, are only found throughout the Euphrates and can be seen in Halfeti district, a part of which has been submerged during the construction of the Birecik Dam.
President Özdal became the volunteer keeper of the turtles, which he saw during a stand up paddling trip. Leaving bread and leftovers that he collected from restaurants to the region where the turtles are seen, Özdal also conducts works to protect this species.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Nihat Özdal told that he was very much influenced by the situation of these turtles in the district. "Before the construction of the Birecik Dam, there were many turtles in the natural ponds throughout the Euphrates. Children were learning how to swim together with these turtles in Halfeti. We started to think that these species do not live in there anymore after the dam. However, we saw them again at the entrance of a spring, the mud level of which is high. Unfortunately, the areas close to the living space of them are used as picnic places. Some works should be immediately conducted to protect their living species. We took some steps and try to protect them with our own means for now," he added.
Euphrates softshell turtles
The backs of the endangered Euphrates softshell turtles can change from green to brown. These creatures, which can reach a meter in height and breathe through a small, soft trunk on their head, can stay under the water for an unusually long time.
Moving quickly, the Euphrates softshell turtles have a special feature to catch their prey, which they do by craning their necks very quickly.