When a Turkish professor heard there were wild gazelles – which locals thought no longer existed – in the mountains along the Syrian border, he made it his quest to save the endangered species, and now plans on reintroducing the thriving animal in other regions across the Middle East.
University professor Yasar Ergun set up an initiative called the Nature Project, dedicated to monitoring and protecting the endangered mountain gazelle, and acting as a breeding center and sanctuary for gazelles injured or orphaned. Soon after, Kurdish local shepherds joined the fight, and hunters even stopped their activities.
“The locals have done a great job,” says Sedat Kalem, the conservation director of the World Wildlife Fund Turkey. “If everybody can take care of their own environment, that is the key for overall success for protecting biodiversity.”
As of last year, the animals went from near-extinction to over 1,100 in population. The Turkish government even established a protected area of 50 square miles for the gazelles. Now, the plan is to reintroduce the animal in other regions of Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East. “Maybe we can reintroduce them in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq,” says Mr. Ergun. “They lost them just 30 years ago. The people of the Middle East suffered so much. We should offer them this.”