Local officials rush help to stray animals in Istanbul during lockdown

ISTANBUL (XINHUA) – Bahar Cetinkaya and her three-member team took the streets in Istanbul with a car filled with dry animal food, as the city is under lockdown for the weekend due to COVID-19.

“Throughout the day, we will tour the district to ensure that stray animals are not left hungry and dehydrated during the two-day curfew,” Cetinkaya told Xinhua, noting that they have special permission from the governorate which enables them to go out during lockdowns.

Cetinkaya and her colleagues are working for the Kadikoy Municipality, one of Istanbul’s crowded districts on the Asian side. Apart from their everyday tasks, they have been continuously taking care of stray animals since the first coronavirus case was seen in the city and Turkey last month, forcing people to stay at their homes.

The municipality has recently designated a particular call centre that receives the reports of the citizens about the condition of stray animals.

“The residents are giving us location details, and information about the condition of animals that they want us to check,” Cetinkaya explained the process.

“Upon the information we receive, we go and find them who are in need or sick. We feed them or bring them to the Kadikoy animal rehabilitation centre if necessary.”

In her view, the “stay at home” calls and curfews as part of the fight against the coronavirus significantly worsened the condition of street animals across the city.

Cetinkaya said before the pandemic, Istanbulites were feeding them several times a day, providing shelters and protecting them very well.

Bahar Cetinkaya, a staff member of Kadikoy Municipality, takes care of stray cats in Istanbul, Turkey. PHOTO: XINHUA

“We are now working with all our strength not to leave them alone and neglected during this crisis,” she noted, as around 40 stray cats in the Fenerbahce park surrounded her.

Cetinkaya and her team are not only interested in street cats and dogs, but also all kinds of birds.

“Seagulls and crows are also in a difficult situation,” she said. “During the curfews, we find them walking on the streets, looking for food.”

For Gozde Dogan, a veterinarian, stray animals could become wilder when they stop contacting people.

“Also, when hunger is added, this can be an important problem,” she told Xinhua.

“In that sense, what these people do is very meaningful,” Dogan added, referring to the efforts of municipal teams.

Sevda Kucukacer, a Kadikoy resident, has been regularly feeding stray animals in her Acibadem neighbourhood.

“In my neighbourhood, there are lots of cats. We can continue to feed them easily, but I know that there are dog colonies who are desperate to find food in several slum areas and forest zones around the district,” Kucukacer told Xinhua.

In her view, the sole burden of feeding them is now on the shoulders of local officials.
Kucukkaya pays 150 Turkish liras for 20kg of dog supplies and 120 liras for cat food.

“Before the outbreak, we were able to collect some food residue from hotels or restaurants, but now they are all closed,” she also said, complaining about the high prices in the stores.