Euphrates Softshell Turtle

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Soft shell, hard life! We are striving to save the endangered Euphrates turtle of Mesopotamia.

The Euphrates soft-shell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) has been listed as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It lives in the basin of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers spanning from Anatolia and to Mesopotamia. Little is known of the reproductive biology of this species.

The main cause of population decline is habitat destruction: intensive use of its habitats by humans for water supply, irrigation, fisheries or water pollution. In addition to these threats, drastic changes in environmental conditions caused by dam projects on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers exacerbated population decline. As a result, the species is known to be almost extinct in the Turkish part of the Euphrates valley. It now risks losing those areas where it can still live on the Tigris river because of the Ilısu Dam Project.

The natural habitats of Euphrates soft-shell turtles in the basin of the Euphrates river were submerged by water when the Birecik Dam was built in 2002 – these habitats have since disappeared. When it was thought the species had completely disappeared in this region, Doğa experts near the Euphrates River in the Birecik district of Urfa located one of the last habitats. A feasibility study is now being carried out under our freshwater programme to protect the population in Birecik and restore its habitat. Moreover, Doğa campaigns against the Ilısu Dam project being one of the single biggest threats to the species.

Photograph: © Mehmet Zülfü Yıldız

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