The turtle and the tourist
In 1994, during a monitoring and evaluation study carried out in the Meditterenean coasts, it has been discovered that Çıralı has a potential nesting place (in addition to the existing 17 significant beaches) for Caretta Caretta turtle. At the moment, significant turtle beaches have reached 20 or 21 and Cirali is one of them. Afterwards, DHKD (Society for the Protection of Nature) received EU funding between 1997-2000 for turtle work. After the project, Ulupinar Cooperative was established and since 2000 this cooperative carried out the turtle work. Between 2002-2007, they worked with university students that were volunteers, sometimes with no funding support on their own. They continued with this turtle work 4 months every summer and also trained the tourists and the rest of the villagers about the turtles. They struggled to conserve their beaches and their turtles seeing in the turtles conservation a sustainable and "protected" income. They made the whole village and even other villages to get to know and love turtles and they became a symbol.
This initiative was pioneer in Turkey: a small scale NGO that conserves its own turtles in its own beach. Some are farmers, some are dealing with tourism and some fishermen...
Aim of the NGO is to promote and apply ecological agriculture, responsible or ecotourism and nature conservation integrated. To conserve the soil and water of the village and to reduce composting costs , ecological agriculture started. It was a though struggle and a big challenge. Owners of local guest houses, kids and women warn a person that goes to the beach at night, tell him/ her about the turtles and give the phone number of the head of the cooperative. Posters and brochures are distributed at the guest houses in each room. In the mornings when the turtle teams come across with tourists, the team gives them information.
Ulupinar Cooperative became an example to many villages and cooperatives in Turkey with all this work. Head of the Cooperative who is a farmer, made a presentation at an international turtle symposium in Crete about all this work. It is very difficult to conserve the beaches and it is done by a village and its cooperative that does not give up against construction or excess concretion...
Biodiversity in Çıralı
But apart from all these, Çıralı is a place of environmental concern. It has breath-taking natural riches such as pine trees, forests, Mediterranean shrubs and dunes, and hosts numerous rare and endemic plant species like the Globe Thistle (Echinops onopordum), the Onosma strigossissimum and the Phlomis chimerae. During a recent survey two plant species were discovered and currently await classification.
What makes Çıralı more interesting and precious for everyone is the fact that its beach is crucial for the survival of the endangered loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). Since other nesting habitats such as Tekirova and Kumluca in the vicinity had been destroyed earlier for various reasons, but mainly due to mass tourism activities, Çıralı is one of last refuges, and a major nesting site on Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline.
The loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta) is classified as “endangered” under World Conservation Union`s (IUCN) Red List. Once found all over the Mediterranean basin, this 100-million year old species is now at risk in the region from ever-growing threats like marine pollution, loss of nesting habitats due to infrastructure and tourism development, turtle by-catch in fisheries, and deliberate killing. Today, only a small population nest in Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.
The loggerhead turtle is not the only one to choose Çıralı as a place to live. Animal species such as lynx (Lynx lynx), wild goat (Capra aegagrus), jackal (Canis aureus), European treefrog (Hyla arborea), and the Agama stellioher, rarely found elsewhere, are also present in the area.
A very important aspect of this biological heritage is that the area represents all natural and cultural characteristics of the Mediterranean. Likewise, the impact created by human activity, too, is indicative of major dangers threatening the Mediterranean coast.