Discovered in 2015, the lava tubes in Hatay's Hassa district are home to a number of animal species, including endangered striped hyenas, jungle cats, various bat species, Wagner's gerbils, porcupines, long-eared hedgehogs and Hatay mountain gazelles.
The caves, the first of their kind to be registered in Turkey's National Cave Inventory, have a mesmerizing atmosphere and size.
Since the discovery, scientists have been examining the caves and their inhabitants. To date, they have found different species, including a number of endangered bat species, living in 11 lava caves.
Professor Nursel Aşan, a biologist from Kırıkkale University, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they have discovered colonies of endangered long-fingered bats, Blasius's horseshoe bats, common bent-wig bats and Mehely's horseshoe bats in the lava tubes.
"Seventeen out of 41 bat species in Turkey are found in Hatay. Of them, four are endangered species. In that sense, Hassa is a very important area. These bats were thought to live only in karst caves but here they were discovered in lava caves for the first time," said Aşan.
The president of Hatay Foundation for Nature Protection Abdullah Öğünç said the volcanic land in Hassa was very interesting and hosted rare geological formations.
He said that the foundation has discovered 11 lava tubes in the region since 2015.
"Different animal species take shelter in these caves. We have also discovered some rare and endangered species that use these tubes as a habitat. The area especially hosts bats, striped hyenas, jungle cats, Wagner's gerbils and Hatay Mountain gazelles."
"Besides, this region is rich in water resources. According to the State Hydraulic Works (DSİ), the underground supply here provides healthy drinking water enough for 1.5 million people every day.