Grassroots initiatives

An office without walls

Nature conservation is not a nine-to-five job. Nature provides us with endless questions to answer if we are curious enough. With over 20 years of experience in bird watching, bird research, nature conservation and nature education both in Turkey and abroad, Lale Aktay and Özgün Süzüer have seen and experienced many sides of nature conservation, and we are eager to find out what drives them. We talked about research and on-site conservation of birds, the importance of knowledge transfer, building a network and being a role model for youth. Moreover, we heard about a successful initiative combining cycling with nature observation and got a glimpse into the field of ethno-ornithology.

The intricate web of nature protection in Hatay

As we approached the province of Hatay, we had no idea yet how intricate and strong the nature protection community really is here. But soon enough, we found out that like the underground network of trees in a forest, the protectors of Hatay developed a unique and diverse network, consisting of academicians, conservationists, media personnel and nature enthusiasts, working as coordinated as we have not seen before.

And what are they protecting? Taking up only 0.7% of Turkey, Hatay hosts 60% of all of the country’s mammal species. Moreover, it is a major bottleneck for migratory birds and hosts some of Turkey’s most important wetlands belonging to the Asi river basin.

Traditional ecological knowledge: our heritage and our survival strategy

Ceren Kazancı and Soner Oruç are ethnobiologists, studying traditional ecological knowledge in the Western Lesser Caucasus at the Turkish-Georgian border region, one of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots of the world. Like other ethnobiologists, they recognize that indigenous peoples, traditional societies, and local communities are critical not only to the conservation of cultural and linguistic diversity, but also biological diversity.

Birds unite our changing world

“Birds unite our changing world”. This sentence welcomes the reader on Lider Sinav´s blog called Kuş Notları (“Bird notes”). As a six-year-old boy, Lider opened his first field guide for birds, a German book he received from his Swiss mother. And from there on, he was fascinated by birds. Now, even though he is only 29, he is only one of the most knowledgeable ornithologists of Turkey and has conducted fieldwork in research and conservation all over Turkey.

Building a conservation community in Bulgaria

As nature protection cannot be divided from politics, it has also been strongly influenced by the past years of political turmoil in Bulgaria. In response, throughout the last years, civic movements have mushroomed in the country to protest against various threats to the environment, coordinated by the biggest Bulgarian environmental NGOs. We visited the Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation, who set out to build a resilient and growing community of conservationists.

The bird lagoons of Bulgaria

One of the biggest wetlands along the Black Sea coast are the Burgas lakes in Bulgaria. The five lakes and their surrounding wetlands cover almost 100 km² and on the right days, you can see thousands of birds here. We met up with the NGO ‘Green Balkans’ and the NGO ‘Bulgarian Biodiversity Foundation’, two organizations that run projects for their protection, and learnt about the complex interrelation of traditional salt production and biodiversity in two hypersaline lagoons.