An endangered Euphrates softshell turtle was spotted by fishermen in Turkey’s southeastern Adıyaman province. The spotting was captured on camera.

The turtle was seen on the shore of the Atatürk Dam near Kızılcapınar village, when it was caught on a fishermen’s line. The turtle, which was pulled ashore, escaped from the fishing line and disappeared into the water.

Mehmet Zülfü Yıldız, an expert on marine life, said the scientific name of the critically endangered species is Rafetus Euphraticus. Noting the turtle only lives in the Mesopotamian region, he said it is found wherever the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers flow such as in Iran, Turkey and Syria. The turtles normally lay their eggs in the sand and soft soils on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, he said. But due to the construction of dams, their nesting grounds have been submerged, he added. “… they cannot find a suitable environment to lay their eggs,” he added. Yıldız urged fishermen not to harm this endangered species and release them into the water if they get caught on their lines.

The backs of the endangered Euphrates softshell turtles can change from green to brown. These creatures, which can reach a meter in height and breathe through a small, soft trunk on their head, can stay under the water for an unusually long time.

Moving quickly, the Euphrates softshell turtles have a special feature to catch their prey, which they do by craning their necks very quickly.

Adıyaman province is home also to Mount Nemrut, where the mausoleum of Antiochus I (69-34 B.C.), who reigned over Commagene, a kingdom founded north of Syria and the Euphrates after the breakup of Alexander’s empire is located. It is “one of the most ambitious constructions of the Hellenistic period” according to UNESCO.

Turkey is more famous for its sea turtles. There are seven known sea turtle species in the world and Turkey is home to Caretta carettas, or loggerhead sea turtles, and green turtles who choose the country’s Mediterranean beaches for nesting. Their habitats stretch from the southwestern tip of the Mediterranean coast in Iztuzu in Muğla to Samandağı further east in the province of Hatay. The government and animal protection groups work to protect the turtles, which remain under the constant watch of volunteers.

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