As part of a project developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the European Union (EU) aimed at conserving endangered animals and plants, several species were selected for protection. These include the Harran lizard, Bolland’s blue (butterfly), steppe eagle, caracal from the feline family, and Spotted mullein.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the European Union, a project called “Preparation, Implementation and Monitoring of Species Action Plans for Endangered Species in Turkey within the Concept of a New Methodology” was launched in August 2020 with the aim of protecting biodiversity in Türkiye.
With the project, it is aimed to establish a methodology for the prioritisation of endangered species. This methodology will be used for the development of a Species Conservation Strategy for Türkiye and the preparation of Species Action Plans.
In parallel with these objectives, 20 different criteria were established under four categories to identify endangered species.
In accordance with these criteria, Harran lizard, Bolland’s blue, a butterfly species, steppe eagle, caracal from feline family and Spotted mullein plant were taken under protection.
A workshop titled “Harran Lizard Action Plan Workshop” was organized in Şanlıurfa regarding the Harran lizard, which was included in the protected species list.
“Species Action Plans Underway to Protect Endangered Species”
The Head of the Wildlife Conservation Working Group for the Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks (GDNCNP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Adem Ağır, made evaluations to an AA correspondent during the workshop, stating that action plans have been prepared primarily for the species that have been placed under protection.
“One of our main objectives when preparing the action plans is to not only protect the species but also to inform the public, increase institutional capacity, and at the same time increase the capacity of the public. We want people to respect conservation measures and comply with the protection measures we propose. We want them to refrain from poaching and not to pick flowers during the flowering season.”
Explaining that some of the animal species for which action plans have been developed are being monitored through transmitters and the data from these monitoring studies are being evaluated. Ağır stated, “Some rare species that have been placed under protection may attract the interest of individuals who seek to acquire them for various purposes, despite their rarity, unfavourable conservation status and limited distribution in small areas. It is important to note that these species are often endemic to specific regions, meaning that there may be as few as 5-10 individuals remaining. Any harm done to these already small populations, such as plucking individuals or failing to protect them, can result in the destruction of up to 20% of the entire population.”
“We have identified the species that are in the most critical situation”
Dr. Burak Tatar, an expert in agriculture and forestry from the Department of Wildlife at the General Directorate of NCNP in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, has emphasized that climate change and global warming have put many species on the brink of extinction. To address this issue, they are working on projects that not only protect one species but also safeguard other species, while creating categories that protect public resources.
Regarding the species that classified into these categories and were given protection, Tatar said the following:
“There were 20 different criteria that we prioritised in our project and grouped under four categories. Based on these criteria, we identified all species in Türkiye, namely birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, plants, and some invertebrates. We gathered scientists, held meetings, and planned the species using a scoring system, which allowed us to identify the species in the most critical situation. We chose a pilot species from each taxonomic group, resulting in five final groups: birds, mammals, reptiles, plants, and invertebrates. We then selected one representative species from each group and decided to prepare model action plans for them. The reptile group’s representative is the Harran lizard, the Steppe eagle for birds, the caracal for mammals, the butterfly species found in Hatay, named Bolland’s Blue for invertebrates, and the Spotted mullein for plants, which is endemic around Çanakkale and distributed only in that region.”
Tatar stated that the action plans they have prepared will serve as a model for the action plans to be prepared for other species in the future.
“Many species are not as lucky as the Harran lizard”
Borut Rubinic, who took part as a team leader in the efforts to protect the Harran lizard, emphasized that this particular species of lizard is unique in the world because it is only found in a very limited area.
Stating that many species are not as lucky as the Harran lizard, Mr. Rubinic said: “However, we have the ability to save the Harran lizard from extinction. I think the Harran lizard has the potential to become a flag-species for Türkiye since there are not many reptile species that are so narrowly specific to a particular region. By promoting the lizard as a special species, it can gain the attention of a wider scientific community. The Harran lizard is almost like a panda, being a species that is specific to a certain area, yet even more rare than the panda and more restricted in terms of range. It is both a chance and a blessing to find this species here in Türkiye.