First Wolves Tagged for GPS Tracking in Turkey

© KuzeyDoğa

The wolf looms large in the folklore of Turkey, where a gray wolf is believed to have led the Turks' ancestors out of their legendary homeland and into Anatolia, conquering along the way. But hunting and habitat destruction, especially road-building, have left the elusive animal a rare sight indeed.

This fall, two wolves were tagged with GPS transmitters for the first time in Turkey, a step that conservationists hope will help provide better information about the animals' behavior and range and what is needed to protect them.

The tagging was carried out in the mountainous Sarıkamış area of eastern Turkey in early October by the environmental group KuzeyDoğa, in collaboration with government officials and the mobile carrier Turkcell, whose network can continuously transmit the wolves' GPS coordinates through SMS messages. The project required two years of preparation and five weeks of intensive fieldwork assisted by wolf expert Dr. Josip Kusak from the University of Zagreb.

Reducing Human-Wolf Conflicts
"With the wolf tracking project, it will be possible to determine the size of the wolves' habitat and their seasonal-use areas and how closely they live with people," said KuzeyDoğa founder Çağan Şekercioğlu. "By observing wolves' movements, which parts of the [Sarıkamış] national park they use and the frequency of their visits to settled areas, human-wolf conflicts in the area can be reduced."

As of Nov. 24, one of the wolves has already been tracked walking 300 kilometers and covering 575 square kilometers of ground, an area 2.5 times bigger than Sarıkamış-Allahuekber National Park.

© KuzeyDoğa
A Pacific golden plover

KuzeyDoğa is also keeping tabs on the area's avian life, counting 39,140 birds of 81 species -- the year's record in Turkey -- at its research stations in Kars and Iğdır during World Birdwatching Day in early October. Recent sightings of a black stork, a European nightjar, and a Pacific golden plover brought the total number of bird species spotted on Kuyucuk Lake in Kars to 223 -- 48 percent of all those present in Turkey.

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Tags: Animals | Birds | Conservation | Turkey

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