Fauna and Flora
Turkey has a large number of carnivorous species that are not found in Europe. There is, for example, the so-called Turkish leopard, which lives mostly in the area around Antalya known as the Turkish Riviera. It can also be found around the towns of Burdur, Erzurum, Bodrum, Bursa and Siirt.
There are jackals and hyenas in the salt wastes around Konya, in eastern Anatolia and along the Syrian border. They are shy of human beings and are not often seen, but can frequently be heard howling at night. Other unusual animals to be found are the sable and the lynx. The lynx is rare these days, but can still be found in the Pontic and Taurus Mountains and around Bolu and Kastamonu.
Bears are still common in the Taurus Mountains, and like foxes in Britain are hunted by the Turkish upper classes. Bears normally avoid human company, but can be dangerous if one actually meets them. If bears block the way on some lonely mountain pass, then one should keep calm, turn off the engine and wait patiently until they leave. Under no circumstances should one leave the vehiclel
Wolves are still common, especially north and south of Van. They also hunt in packs across the central steppes. In harsh winters they come close to human habitations. The nomads either shoot at them or use their dogs to scare them away. One sometimes reads of packs of wolves that have killed flocks of sheep or have attacked children.
Apart from the wild boar and the wild goat, many of the other animals are similar to those in Britain and the United States including roe and fallow deer, rabbits and hares, squirrels, foxes and badgers, martens, weasels and stoats. They live all over Turkey, but especially in the forests along the Aegean and Black Sea coasts.
One speciality is the mountain goat or ibex, which ranges between lzmir and the Dardanelles in the west, and around Kars, Van and Siirt in the east. The chameleon is most at home in the rocky steppes from Balikesir as far as Malatya. Gazelles prefer steppes and open woodland, but have been decimated by the local population. The so-called red sheep is a kind of mouflon that lives around Diyarbakir and on the northern flanks of the Taurus Mountains towards Konya.
Dogs and cats are the two main pets. The long-haired Angora cat originated in the area around Kayseri, though its name comes from an old name for Ankara.
The mule is still the chief meaijs of transport in Turkey, closely followed by the donkey. Camels are uncommon, though caravans can be seen near Denizli and Elazig, in the salt wastes around Konya, south of lzmir and in the area around Antakya. Most people in the countryside live from livestock such as sheep, cattle and goats.
Common birds of prey include eagles, hawks and falcons. There are numerous wild geese and ducks along the banks of the rivers. Wild swans are less common, and are mostly found around Lake Van, near Edirne and along rivers such as the Maritsa and the Meric. Some birds have become pests, such as snipe, partridges, quails, starlings and pigeons. But the rock doves that live in the karst landscape of Göreme and Cirgup are now a protected species.
The coastal waters are full of fish, the most interesting of which are the swordfish and tuna that are caught in the Mediterranean and Aegean. Dolphins can often be seen leaping around boats on the Black Sea.
Central Turkey consists mostly of steppes, which make up 24 percent of the land surface. The commonest plants include dry grasses, thistles, wormwoodS and spurges. Oases can be recognised by the presence of trees and green grass.
Forests are less common, making up only 13 per cent of the land surface, so wood is in short supply. Most of the forests are in regions near the coast. In the Pontic Mountains they consist mostly of beech and fir, while in the Taurus Mountains they are of pine, juniper and cedar; the Aegean coast is characterised by fig, pine and chestnut. There are mulberry trees in Thrace and in southern Anatolia, while the date palm grows along the Turkish Riviera. The Mediterranean coast is lined with cotton plantations, and vast areas along the coast and in the Taurus Mountains are being taken over for forestry. This could easily bring about a change in the climate, with increased rainfall.
At harvest time the markets are inundated with all kinds of fruit, including oranges, mandarins, lemons, grapes, peaches, apricots, bananas, figs, apples, pears, pomegranates, walnuts, chestnuts and olives.
The vegetation generally is typical of the Mediterranean, including cacti, agaves, orchids, oleander, rosemary, lavender, myrtle, broom, and sage. Thyme and evergreen buckthorn also thrive on the dry soils. The laburnum and strawberry trees create a marvellous display of colour in the spring.