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Some information for Fauna and Flora of Turkey

The Butterflies of Cappadocia

Small oases of green vegetation scattered along the otherwise inhospitable valleys provide sustenance not only for human beings but for a wide diversity of wildlife, including birds, insects and reptiles. In the first warm days of April butterflies and moths of a myriad colours and designs emerge from their chrysalises. One of Europe’s foremost areas in this respect, Cappadocia is home to over two or three times the number of moths. What makes Cappadocia of particular interest to naturalists is the fact that species native to Europe, North Africa and the Near East are found together here.

Potato fields attract Papilio Machaon, with its blue and red spots on white ground and wings tapering into long tails. The Balkan species Allancastria Cerisyi is also to be seen here, as is the rare Parnassius Apollon, which flutters on the high forested slopes of Mount Erciyes. The lovely Issoria Hathonla, with is metallic silvery spots on the underside of its wings, appears in late spring and can be seen throughout the summer. A visitor to flower gardens in summer and autumn is the large Argynnis Paphia, while in in the summer the dry hills are home to Chazara Briseis, patterned in grey and yellow on black. One of the species unique to Turkey is Agrodiaetus Iphigenia Nonacriensis, distinguished by its incandescent turquoise wings. Most famous of the species native to the Cappadocian region and not found else where is Zygaena Kapadokia, a tiny but beautiful butterfly moth which lives in grassland.

Butterflies are generally short lived, but there are exceptions among migrating species which leave North Africa in early spring and fly thousands of kilometres northwards. The most common of these is Cynthia Cardui, which is seen throughout Europe as far as Scandinavia. The first swarms of migrating butterflies arrive in April, and remain until October, laying eggs twice during the summer on thistles and nettles. So when you are in Cappadocia take time out from the frescos and rock hewn churches to watch for the butterflies, which add another dimension of interest and colour to this unique region. 


Written by Turgay Tuna


From old hand writing documents, it has been determined that Thermit Ibis birds used to live in Europe since 1504. This bird, which was living in Central Europe near the Alps, was first defined by C. Gessner as Corvus Sylvaticus in 1555 in Historia Animalium and some information was given about the birds' life style. Later, it was determined that those birds, which disappeared in Europe, emigrated to Middle East countries and Africa and they still live in these countries.

Thermit Ibis that come to Birecik in the middle of February settle down at rocks in the middle of March. After their procreation, they grow up their youngs and in the middle of July they leave Birecik with their youngs. The reason for these birds to come to Birecik for procreation is thought to be that the calcite mineral in those rocks increased the procreation energy of birds. Thermit Ibis birds are single mate and every year they build their nest and lash out with the same couple. Mature birds are the ones that show their energy to build up a nest. It is necessary to be 5 years old, to become a mature bird. Their average life period is 25-30 years. 

In the beginning of 1950, the number of Thermit Ibis was more than 1000, there had been a specific decrease in the number of birds since 1954. Destruction of natural feeding environment of these birds with overuse of agricultural insecticide chemicals, hunting of these birds by the hunters in their long immigration period and cold weather conditions are the main reasons for the decrease of Thermit Ibis birds. Thermit Ibis birds follow the Lebanon - Israel way and the River Nil or Red Sea coast and can not be observed at those places. 

In order to prevent the decrease in number and disappearing of the generation, Thermit Ibis Procreation Station was established in Birecik by the Generate Directorate of Forestry of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Affairs in 1972. In this station, first of all two mature and nine young Thermit Ibis birds were captured by net and put into a cage, and then production started in 1977. The birds under protection are fed with meat without fat, planed carrot, boiled egg and mixture of fodder. 

In February 1996, 52 Hermit Ibis birds set free from procreation station to reproduction in nature. After the reproduction season, the total number reached to 75 with 23 young birds. 4 of them are given to Istanbul Bayramoğlu Zoo, 5 of them are given to Atatürk Orman Çiftliği, 13 of them immigrated and 45 of them are still living in procreation station. 

Birecik people consider Thermit Ibis birds which they regionally call Keçelaynak holy. Arrival of Hermit Ibis birds to Birecik in the middle of February is interpreted by Birecik people as a sign of spring. In recent years, "Hermit Ibis Festival" is being organized in Birecik for these birds.

Turkish Ministry of Culture 


The Turkish sheppard dog:

The Kangal Dog is found in the high rolling plains country of central Turkey. The approximate geographic center of the region is Sivas City. The Kangal Dog has historically been associated with the town of Kangal­a district town within Sivas Province. While much of the landscape is rolling plains, the region is cut by the Kulmaç Mountains and the Tecer Mountains running approximately NE/SW. The Uzun Yayla southwest of Kangal is a major Kangal Dog and sheep producing area. The Kızılırmak River runs through the province. A karst topography dominates the northern part of the province.

Although Sivas Province is the center of Kangal Dog breeding, good examples of the breed can also be found in parts of the neighboring provinces of Kayseri, Yozgat, Tokat, Erzincan, and Malatya, where they border on Sivas Province. The precise regional boundaries for the Kangal Dog cannot be defined, but the demarcation between true Kangal Dogs and other dogs is usually abrupt.

Kangal. A name well known to the people of Turkey! Its very name evokes the romance and legendary aura of this land so steeped in history. This ancient breed springs forth like a lion from its epicenter - the Kangal District - a region in east central Turkey located in what is known as the Anti-Taurus. While Turkey has more than one indigenous dog breed, the Kangal is the most famous of them all. This breed's status is manifested by its portrait on a national Turkish postage stamp. If any dog breed can be characterized as the national dog of Turkey, that breed is the Kangal Dog.

Standing a minimum of 30 inches (dogs) at the withers and weighing an average 120 pounds, the Kangal Dog is a strongly-built, magnificent dog distinguished by its black face and ears. The short, soft body coat ranges from light dun to steel grey in color and is usually accented with a white chest blaze and white stockings on the feet and legs. Turkish shepherds frequently crop the ears close to the skull, thereby enhancing its leonine appearance. When equipped with the traditional spiked, iron collar around its neck, the Kangal Dog, in its native land, projects an intimidating and powerful image.

The correct, traditional name for the breed in Turkey is Kangal Köpegi or Sivas Kangal Köpegi. (The Turkish word köpek means "dog" in English. When used with an adjective in the Turkish language, the word "köpek" takes the form köpeği.) Thus, the direct translation is Kangal Dog or Sivas Kangal Dog. No other name is acceptable to the Turks, nor to its original sponsor in Europe and the United States - The Kangal Dog Club of America, Inc., a non-profit corporation founded to preserve the breed, protect its name, and maintain the Turkish-American standard for the breed.

To understand the Kangal Dog, one needs to understand the context-historical, cultural, and physical-in which it is found. Our objective is to provide all the information needed to understand and appreciate this magnificent breed.

If any dog breed can be characterized as the "national dog" of Turkey, the Kangal Dog is that dog. Simply stated, the Kangal Dog is a cultural and historic icon of the Turkish people.

The image of the Kangal Dog in Turkey is very positive. This image connotes power, strength, and generates a great sense of pride. There is a feeling of awe for the great Kangals of Turkey!



Let us have fun,
let us all dance and play,
for it is tulip time!

Aynalıkavak Kasrı with tulips

Paeans to the tulip resounded in the air. In İstanbul, in the early 18th century, the Sultan and the populace rejoiced in music, festivities, parades and dances. Countless tulips of all varieties with such poetic names as Blue Pearl, Light of Dawn, Ruby Drop and The Divine Throne adorned the Ottoman imperial capital. It was a period of peace, lavish entertainment and creativity. An early 20th century historian gave it the name of The Tulip Age. This perfect name will endure, because it encapsulates the spirit of a halcyon epoch of about twelve years during which the tulip was the symbol of the sensuality of the creative arts... and the joy of life as an art. 

In the reign of Sultan Ahmed III, following more than four centuries of war, conquest and defeat, the Ottomans suddenly decided to enjoy la dolce vita. The ruling establishment turned away from military engagement and diplomacy to wallow in wine, women and song. Carpe diem: Seize the day. All they wanted was to create Paradise on Earth - the pleasure Principle became their doctrine. The French Ambassador, de Villeneuve, reported that the Turkish Court seemed perpetually bent upon some new excursion, continually filing by in gorgeous cavalcades or floating upon the waves of the Bosphorus or the Golden Horn. In eight months, after repeated requests, he was able to see the Grand Vizier once - and the famous Grand Vizier Damat İbrahim Paşa from Nevşehir talked to him only about tulips. 

Tulips were ubiquitous - not only in the gardens of the Topkapı Palace and of wealthy people, but also in the backyards and window-sills of the houses where the poor lived. Artists glorified this time-honoured Turkish flower on tiles, fabrics, embroideries, miniature paintings, book illuminations, head-dress and slippers, rowboats and tombstones, painted glass and household utensils. As a leitmotif, it enlivened all the creative genres.

Aynalıkavak Kasrı with tulips

The tulip, indigenous to parts of Central Asia Minor where the Turks had already held sway for many centuries, stood as the premier flower of the Ottomans. It even acquired a religious significance because, in the Arabic script that the Ottoman used, the name of the tulip, lâle, bears a resemblance to Allah. The etymology of the word tulip, however, may be traced to dulband, or turban, which European and British travellers likened to the shape of the flowers.

This Turkish flower was already cherished in Ottoman gardens, visual arts, and classical poetry by the time Sultan Süleyman the Magnificent ascended the throne in 1520. His supreme judge, perhaps the greatest legal mind of Ottoman Islam, Ebussuud Efendi had a passion for flowers, especially for tulips. In 1554, Ambassador Busbecq came to the court of Süleyman the Magnificent as the envoy of Austrian Emperor and was struck by the varieties and the vibrancy of flowers in the Ottoman imperial capital. He wrote: 

We saw everywhere an abundance of flowers... The Turks are so fond of flowers that even the marching troops have their orders not to trample on them.

Busbecq was especially astonished to see the tulip, a flower unknown to Europeans. He took some bulbs with him back to Vienna where, in 1559, the Swiss botanist Konrad Gesner saw garden tulips for the first time, and the first picture of the tulip, which he described as a big reddish flower similar to a red lily, appeared in his Book of Garden Flowers in 1561. Later the celebrated Dutch botanist Clusius obtained a number of bulbs from Busbecq, developed many new varieties - and in a few decades, tulips had triumphantly fired the European imagination. In the 1630, a craze often referred to as Tulipomania swept through Holland. Vagaries of the tulip trade resulted in vast fortunes made or lost. Yet, the aesthetic experience of tulips has endured in Holland for more than 350 years now. 

The Tulip Ottomania erupted as the second decade of the 18th century drew to a close. Ottomans were breeding their own varieties and importing dozens more from Holland and elsewhere. By the mid 1720s they had close to 900 varieties each bearing a special name. A later document states that there were as many as 1.750 varieties. Some were sold for 1.000 gold pieces each. When a foreign ambassador brought but lost a special new breed intended as a gift for the Sultan, town criers strolled through İstanbul streets offering a huge reward, a fortune, to finder. It was never found – or never turned in.

But the creative spirit as well as the excesses of the Age dwarfed the tulip fields. Festivals were held lasting the proverbial 40 days and 40 nights. İstanbul, the ancient city that already boasted of 25 centuries of sovereign history, kept vibrating with the sounds, sights and pleasures of the revelries organized for its wealthy residents and sometimes for the entire populace. A chronicler reports that 1.500 cooks prepared for 100.000 people a day sumptuous food made of 16.000 chickens, geese and turkeys and 15000 cauldrons of meat pilav were consumed.

At night 15 to 25 thousand lanterns illuminated the city and 5000 to 7000 firecrackers decked the skies. Music, dance, mock battles, comedy, acrobatics, magic shows, javelin games, torch pageants- an inexhaustible diversity of entertainment.

During the day, parades with fascinating floats and displays went through the ancient hippodrome and some of the main avenues. Guilds of artisans, one after another presented their works and wares. The whole city was enchanted.

The spirit of the age revelled in new lilting compositions, in miniature paintings (particularly those by the greatest stylist Levni), in dazzling decorative arts, in erotic and hedonistic poetry, especially the cheerful verses of Nedim (who rhapsodised: Let’s laugh and play, let’s enjoy the world to the hilt.)

Miniature from the Tulip Age

In about twelve years, the Tulip Age gave new direction and brave new dimensions to many Ottoman arts. This was also the period which intensified relations with Europe. İstanbul witnessed the emergence of European architectural styles-and Ottoman influence would lead to the European fad that came to be known as Turquerie. The Tulip Age also ushered in the printing press for the publication of books in the Turkish language. Impetus was given to science, libraries, translation, and intellectual exploration.

All the merriment in the world could not distract the poverty-stricken people. Too much circus and not enough bread led to a plebeian uprising, and the Sultan was toppled. In 1730 the Tulip Age came to an abrupt end. But the glory of its arts endures - and the love for tulips. 

By Prof. Talat S. Halman