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TURKEY’S ‘TURTLE BEACH’, SAVED FROM BULLDOZERS İN THE 1980S, FACES NEW THREAT FROM DEVELOPERS

The sand is soft, the sea warm and shallow, and at three low-key beach shacks, barefoot holidaymakers pay a few Turkish lira to drink tea, water or cold Efes beer under a corrugated iron roof. The peckish can order a gözleme(Turkish pancake) filled with cheese, spinach or mince from another green-painted shack, where local women roll out the flatbreads to order for 8 lira (just over £2). Down on the sand, a wicker sunshade and two basic loungers cost £2.50 a day. At intervals along the shore, wire cages with scrupulously observed “do not disturb” notices indicate the presence of turtle nests. June Haimoff of the Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation, who helped to win environmental protection status for Iztuzu beach in the late 1980s. Photograph: Liz Boulter

This is Iztuzu, or turtle, beach, in south-west Turkey, beloved by holidaymakers staying in the riverside town of Dalyan, 13km inland, as well as by day-trippers from Marmaris, Fethiye and Ölüdeniz. This is the beach that was famously saved from development in the late 1980s thanks to the efforts of “Kaptan” June Haimoff, the Englishwoman who lived in a hut here from the mid-1970s (and still lives in the area). She managed to see off a plan to turn this 5km of unspoilt paradise – and nesting site for loggerhead turtles – into a resort with large-scale hotel, yacht marina and dozens of holiday villas.

Yet 25 years after the doughty June, now 91, battled with an international property consortium to win special environmental protection status for the beach – the bulldozers were lumbering into position as she fought – the 5km delta spit could once again be under threat.

Changes to local government boundaries this year have seen Dalyan and Iztuzu beach come under the aegis of nearby Ortaca district, and the licence to run beach facilities being sold to Oruç, a Turkish/British company of carpet merchants and property developers. June – and her Turtle Conservation Foundation, started in 2011, the year she was awarded an MBE for her environmental work – are, of course, not taking this lying down.

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