When people picture the variety of animals in Turkey, the stereotypical image of a camel being ridden in some desert probably springs to mind. While the Turkish army did indeed at one point have about 120,000 of these animals, they are rarely used anymore and cannot be found in the wild. But a look at the vast geography of Turkey unveils a surprising variety of animals, not typically associated with the country.
As Turkey is surrounded by seas, it is only natural that there are multiple species of marine mammals. They are quite friendly and can even be spotted in the Bosporus.
The tiny mouse deer look exactly what they sound like. These tiny deer are the smallest hoofed mammal in the world and hunting them is illegal in Turkey. They have an average height of about 30 cm (12 inches).
Speaking of deer, there is a species called “Alageyik” that roam the southern provinces, especially Antalya. Over the last few decades, their numbers have increased significantly thanks to preservation efforts.
While Turkey is relatively flat in the west, it gets increasingly steep the further you go east. You can find mountain gazelles across Turkey but sadly, the species is endangered. The southern province of Hatay has put forward great efforts to increase the gazelle populations, and successfully so.
As much as Turkey is known for its cats that can be seen roaming almost every street of the country's cities, the wild kind can be found as well. One of these is the Anatolian leopard, which is, unfortunately, an endangered species that can be found in the southeastern provinces of the country. They were so rare for a time that they were thought extinct for several years. The Eurasian lynx is another big cat that can be found in Turkey, most frequently spotted on the Kaçkar and Taurus Mountains.
With its characteristic tufted black ears, the Caracal is a medium-sized cat that was spotted in the Anatolian province of Elazığ roaming the wild.
The gray wolf is Turkey's national animal, especially embraced by some groups with more nationalistic tendencies. Unfortunately, excessive hunting has diminished the wolf's numbers significantly. Compared to their Eurasian cousins these wolves have a slender build, but they are no less dangerous.
While there are many birds that are worth mentioning here, there are two that are quite interesting. One of them is the black vulture, the biggest scavenger bird found in Turkey living in two prominent national parks where they even have “Vulture Restaurant” – for the birds, not catering to humans. Sadly this species is on the endangered list as well.
Another bird that needs to be mentioned here is the northern bald Ibis, known in Turkish as “kelaynak,” a literal translation if you drop the "northern." The ibis is a migratory bird and is globally endangered, but thanks to conservation efforts in Turkey their numbers have skyrocketed in recent years.
When thinking of the hyena many think of the African Serengeti, or maybe their depiction in the Lion King, but this animal can actually be found in the eastern provinces of Turkey. Though one needs to note here that it is the striped kind.
Loggerhead sea turtles nest every year along the southern Mediterranean coast of Turkey and with the help of environmentalists and the state, they are being protected in order to increase their numbers. During their nesting season, people even camp out to protect the turtles' fragile nests.
These are just a few examples of the rich variety of animals that call Turkey home!