By Pelin Cengiz
One of the most finely honed skills of the human being is the skill of selling evil by portraying it as good. Nowadays, Turkey is auctioning death in public tenders.
Yes, what you have just read is true. Turkey has recently signed the execution warrant of the country's wildlife under the name of “hunting tourism.”
The General Directorate of Nature Conservation and Natural Parks, a subordinate body of the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, has granted the public permission to hunt 15 bears, 130 wild goats, four goat-antelopes, as well as other species whose hunting quotas have not yet been announced, including wild sheep, red deer, gazelles, several species in the sheep and goat families, between May 1 and Dec. 15.
Under normal circumstances, the definition of tourism refers to travel, relaxation and recreation. However, here it has been turned into a polite word for a bloody act, an act better referred to as a “trade in barbarity” rather than “hunting tourism.”
Making the lives of these wild animals an item of public tender and earning money through their slaughter cannot be considered in line with humanity or even common sense. Moreover, it is hard to rationally explain the fact that a state body with the phrase “nature conservation” in its title would allow the massacre of wildlife for financial gain.
Soon, anyone who pays TL 10,000 will be entitled to kill a wild bear, and anyone who pays TL 6,000 will be able to kill a wild goat. Must the ministry earn the money this way? Hunting tourism agencies, which are now competing to win the public tenders taking place in various provinces, are set to sell the quotas they hold to hunters. This is how the most significant animal species in Turkey are to be sacrificed.
Meanwhile, some of the species the public will soon be able to hunt, like the brown bear and the goat-antelope, are those that Turkey is legally obliged to protect. This new situation violates the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention), to which Turkey is a party. The brown bear is also protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However, Turkey has already held public tenders for hunting agencies in the provinces of Kastamonu, Sinop, Zonguldak and Gümüşhane.
People are encountering wildlife more often, as diminishing natural habitats have created the illusion that certain populations are on the rise, a common pretext for hunting. In fact, we don't know whether the numbers of these species are rising or not, as there is no extensive, reliable data.
The World Wide Fund for Nature in Turkey (WWF-Turkey) has released a statement expressing concern for these species and others, adding: “Such critical decisions should not be made without considering reliable scientific data, and should not be based solely on observations. We are expecting a detailed explanation from the officials with respect to the reasons behind this decision.”
The general director of WWF-Turkey, Tolga Baştak, said in separate statement: “It is unacceptable that wildlife is being turned into the means for hunting tourism in Turkey, where those animals' natural habitats are already disappearing. We demand that the public tenders for hunting be canceled and a full-fledged study be carried out in order to draft a detailed inventory of wildlife in Turkey.”
WWF-Turkey has launched a campaign on the website change.org to oppose the government's decision. The campaign, entitled, “Public tenders on hunting tourism should be canceled,” has garnered more than 17,000 signatures in a week. The next target for signatures has been set at 25,000.
In Turkey, we have desiccated our rivers, ravaged our natural beauty with construction, destroyed our forests and polluted our air, our water and our soil. Eradicating wildlife is next on the agenda. More support is necessary to block these hunting tourism tenders.