Zeynep BİLGEHAN – Photos: Levent KULU
When 4 pairs of rabbits left for Akdamar Island 10 years ago, their population reached 3,000 and caused erosion with the tunnels they dug, they were evacuated to the nearby neighborhood. We observed the work of the voluntary evacuation team of 4 people.
10 years ago, 4 pairs of pet island rabbits were left on Akdamar Island in VAN Gevaş, one of the important centers of religious tourism with its historic Armenian church. However, their number has increased rapidly in 10 years. The Nature Watchers Association determined that their population reached 3,000 two years ago. When it was determined that rabbits prevent the growth of new trees by eating the roots of centuries-old almond trees and cause erosion due to nests under the ground, an action plan was prepared under the coordination of the Provincial Directorate culture and tourism. . Van Yüzüncü Yıl University Wildlife Protection and Rehabilitation Center undertook the project.
A RABBIT TURNS 74 A YEAR
The project was set up 2 months ago. To see the studies, Assoc. Dr. We knocked on Loğman Aslan’s door. Aslan explained the plan as follows: “We didn’t want to release the foxes because it’s a tourist area. First, we set 50 traps on the island and caught 300 rabbits. We focused on “headlight hunting” until the summer. After July, our activities will increase. A rabbit gives birth 4 times a year and there are 74 rabbits. 10 births are prevented when a tooth is saved. If we prevent reproduction in the spring, we will be able to collect 80% of the population in the winter. We are determined.
So, how is the rabbit evacuation operation going? We go to Akdamar to find out. Only a team of 4 people is responsible for ridding the 2-hectare island of 3,000 rabbits; Professor Loğman and his student volunteer interns Kenan Yeşilyurt, Burhan Temel and Perver Tekin. Hunting is done at night so that tourists are not disturbed. We check the traps on the island until evening. Captured rabbits are collected in a cage, the traps are restored. After the island closes to visitors, it’s operation time around 8:00 p.m. We go out for a walk with lanterns in hand and for the greatest pleasure of the team. Kenan points his lantern at a random location, and the rabbit that encounters him freezes for a short time. As he was about to escape after recovering from the shock, he stumbled upon Burhan’s lantern, which was waiting behind him. This time, he cannot escape and is grabbed by the hand and put in a cage which serves as his waiting room. Adult rabbits are more difficult to catch because they are experienced. But the puppies can’t resist the light of the lantern.
Some slits are large enough for a human to enter, such as the hole Alice fell through in Wonderland.
Since the bottom of this coastal area, where the rabbits flock, was completely dug up, most of the earth has slipped into the lake. The roots of trees and graveyards are full of holes.
4 eagles and one eagle were left as hunters on the island, but they weren’t effective as they didn’t stay on the island all the time.
One of the biggest obstacles for the team to do their job is “animality”. Burhan said, “They take our traps or release the rabbits we catch. They have good intentions, but they complicate the task,” he says.
The COLLECTED rabbits were brought to their new homes on the mainland, by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Nature Watchers Association, Prof. The team under the leadership of Mustafa Sarı places him. For this operation, we went to the mountainous areas of Gevaş. After a few kilometers, 6 rabbits were released into the wild in the green zone. Disoriented at first, the rabbits rushed to their new home. In this way, around 30 rabbits were released into the wild in groups at 2-3 km intervals.
teacher. “We leave three to five in an area, with an equal number of males and females, so they can form a colony,” says Sarı.
The 8 rabbits left on Akdamar Island 10 years ago, when they had no “natural enemies” on the island, multiplied rapidly and their numbers reached 3,000.
The lush island of Akdamar, full of almond blossoms, is a haven for rabbits. We are surrounded by rabbits of all sizes and colors who look at us as if to say “Who are you?”
“If we let it, it will devour the island in 5-6 years”
The FENERLI team hunts rabbits until morning despite the cold 3 days a week. However, since we are not very trained, they end the hunt around 11:00 p.m. Incomes are low; There are only 5 rabbits in the cage. On the way back, he asked Burhan, “They’re so nice, wouldn’t it be nice if they stayed?” When I ask him, he says, “Then they’ll devour the whole island in 5-6 years.”