Euphrates softshell turtles observed via satellite

Published 31.08.2017 00:34

A species of turtle indigenous to the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and their tributaries, the Euphrates softshell turtle is being closely monitored using satellite technology in Gaziantep province, as part of the Euphrates Softshell Turtle Species Action Plan.

Under the auspices of the project being conducted by the Turkish Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs and the Gaziantep Directorate for Nature Conservation and National Parks, experts have fixed satellite transmitters and radar range finders on 12 turtles that were caught in the Euphrates River Valley and returned to their natural habitat, making it possible for officials to identify the natural habitats and nesting spots of this rare species of turtle.

The endemic turtle species is classified in the family of "softshell turtles." To protect these rare reptiles, which are unique to Mesopotamia, the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, the General Directorate for Nature Conservation and National Parks and the Gaziantep Directorate developed the Euphrates Softshell Turtle Species Action Plan in 2015.

As part of this plan, signboards to raise awareness were placed around the area and hunters, fishermen and locals were informed about this rare species. Now, specific observation studies are being conducted to ensure the longevity of the species. With the help of satellite transmitters, experts are trying to pinpoint the popular habitats of the turtles.

This satellite project is the first of its kind. The transmitters and radar range finders help experts determine an approximate 1-kilometer radius around the reptiles' location to detect seasonally popular spots for the species around the Euphrates River and its distributaries. For example, throughout the months of May and June, experts will identify the locations of the turtles' nests used for proliferation, while they will identify the turtles' winter habitats through observation from October to March, allowing experts to make decisions about the proper relocation of this rare species in nature when necessary.

Euphrates softshell turtles are called "sac bağası" among Turkish locals and are not easily visible when walking in nature.

A heavily cultivated area, the Euphrates River Valley should be farmed and cultivated in a more ecologically conscious way and amid such aims, the top priority of authorities is to protect the valley by putting it under special status. The turtles have had difficulty in proliferation up to this point.

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