Sea Turtle Haven on Turkey's Mediterranean Coast Threatened By Plan to Build 750 New Holiday Homes

patara beach turkey photo

Patara Beach. Photo: Jennifer Hattam

Mega-resort development has swallowed up much of Turkey's gorgeous Mediterranean coastline, but there are still some tucked-away spots for those who prefer peace and quiet to discos and umbrella drinks. One of these places is the village of Patara, home to the longest beach in Turkey, a key sea turtle nesting site, nearly 3,000 years of history, and -- if government officials have their way -- up to 750 brand-spanking-new holiday villas."This plan will not only have a horrible impact on sea turtles, but it will also have a horrible impact on the Patara archaeological site," Lily Venizelos, the head of the Mediterranean Association to Save the Sea Turtles, or MEDASSET, told the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Daily News.

'Save Patara' Campaign
"We have been campaigning internationally since 1988 for the protection of Patara's precious biodiversity and unique heritage site through the 'Save Patara' campaign; we fought very hard to stop this damage, but now all of a sudden there is this plan coming out with an incredible extension of buildings, which will destroy Patara," Venizelos said.

patara ruins turkey photo

Ruins of the ancient city of Patara. Photo: Jennifer Hattam

Thought the beach itself, part of a national park, is off-limits for development, such a drastic expansion to the size of the town would have a detrimental effect on the endangered loggerhead turtle (caretta caretta) by bringing more people through their nesting grounds and increasing the amount of artificial light along the coastline, something that can send baby turtles fatally off course while they try to reach the sea. Development in Turkey is also infamous for spilling beyond its designated boundaries and failing to follow regulations.

Culture, Biodiversity At Risk
MEDASSET sent a letter to a number of Turkish ministers earlier this month, demanding that they "not sacrifice Patara to tourism and development." If the group's call goes unheard, it plans to team up with other environmental organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme, in an international campaign to stop the project.

In addition to the endangered turtles, Patara's sand dunes and small freshwater wetlands host a rich variety of birdlife. Its sandy 20-kilometer beach is the longest in Turkey. The ancient ruins in the area -- also the birthplace of St. Nicholas, better known as Santa Claus -- date back to the 7th century BC and include what may be the oldest lighthouse in the world.

"This development ... will destroy Patara's ecological and historical heritage," Venizelos wrote in the MEDASSET letter. "I appeal to you to consider the richness and uniqueness of this area before it is irrevocable destroyed by human activities and sacrificed to tourism and development."

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