Gareth Huw Davies

Travel Features

Beach of promise – turtles at Dalyan

Spectrum: Beach of promise


The Times (London, England). (Nov. 25, 1987)



Under the jet black Turkish night the last of the season’s loggerhead turtle hatchlings have straddled off Dalyan Beach, past the tireless pickets of Shore Crabs and hyenas, to the sea. The continuing struggle for survival by one of the Mediterranean’s most ancient and endangered species is complete for another year.

Dalyan is a productive place. Female loggerheads made close to 500 nests this year, each containing about 100 eggs, in the soft sand of this unblemished strand.

Turkey is regarded by conservationists as the last battle-ground on the Mediterranean coast. It took only about 400,000 foreign visitors this year, compared with one million Britons who went to Corfu in Greece. But as the Turks go the polls this Sunday, no doubt plans for rapid expansion will loom large in their minds.

The Mediterranean’s two marine turtles, the loggerhead and the green, are uniquely vulnerable to such an explosion in tourism. Hunting them is banned, but unless their breeding habitat can also be defended they are doomed.

The European Herpetological Society believes Turkey, with 80 per cent of loggerhead and green turtle sites, is now the only country with sufficient unspoilt coast line to protect them. But many Turkish nesting beaches have already been destroyed and even Dalyan would have fallen under the cement mixers by now without the passionate campaigning of a British expatriate singer, Mrs June Haimoff, who lives close to the beach, where she met a television producer. A short item on Channel 4 News mobilized its defenders. The small British holiday company Turkish Delight, which had already been urging Turkish authorities to avoid a Costa del Solstyle expansion, enlisted the formidable support of David Bellamy.

Last month an international teal of conservationalists, led by Bellamy, were assured by Oguz Berberoglu, the provincial governor, that only a 620-bed German-financed hotel, already under construction at the eastern end of Dalyan, would be completed. ‘We had not realized the turtles were there,’ he said. ‘We shall do whatever needs to be done to protect them.’ Plans are to be drawn up to set aside more than a mile of beach for the turtles, to guard their nests by night and shield them from hotel lights.

Bellamy explained: ‘Turkey is an immensely important place for wildlife. It has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of other Mediterranean countries as it expands its tourism.’

The campaign to save the turtle now switches to Strasbourg, where next month the Council of Europe’s important nature conservation forum is expected to adopt further protective measures.

Copyright (C) The Times, 1987