On a recent trip to Turkey, CGO Ecology's Chris Gleed-Owen visited the DEKAMER research and rehabilitation centre at Iztuzu Beach in Turkey. Situated behind an important turtle nesting beach near Dalyan on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, DEKAMER rescues injured marine turtles and nurses them back to health. Most of the turtles are loggerheads, but green turtles and the occasional leatherback are known from the area.
Around 300 nesting female loggerhead turtles visit Iztuzu beach every year, and some also feed and mate in the Dalyan River lagoon behind the beach. Unfortunately this puts them at risk from boat propeller strikes and other injuries. Ironically, local boatmen take tourists on turtle-spotting trips in the lagoon where they lure the turtles with crabs and encourage them to stay all year round. Nile turtles and stripe-necked terrapins are also found in the freshwater river and lagoon.
Iztuzu Beach achieved international acclaim in the 1990s when the Turkish government bowed to pressure from an international conservation campaign to preserve the beach as a nature reserve, rather than let hotel developers build on it. The campaign was led by Joan Haimoff (known as 'Captain June' by the locals), with support from David Bellamy. The success story is a milestone in the conservation movement.
Based at Captain June's modest former beach residence, the DEKAMER project (www.caretta.pau.edu.tr/) now has a covered rehabilitation area with tanks for several turtles, staffed by students and volunteers. It operates on very limited funds from tourist donations, and is coordinated by Dr. Yakup Kaska of the Department of Biology at Pamukkale University in Denizli, Turkey.