Thursday, 22 January 2015

... Gorillas in the Mist: May the Odds Be Ever in Your Favour

Turkey loves tobacco, which is why it probably shocked me to read that the Tobacco and Alcohol Market Regulatory Authority actually has really strict laws about where you can and can't smoke. It didn't however really shock me to read that in 2013 the estimated scale of illicit tobacco traffic in Turkey rose to 16.2 billion cigarettes per year. It seems that in Istanbul everyone needs a cigarette. They walk with them, talk with them, eat & drink with them, serve you food with them (street sellers) and I suspect even the stray cats and dogs have a sneaky drag.

Whilst the Turks are destroying their lungs with their cancer sticks, the stray animals of Istanbul are actually surprisingly healthy looking. There are about 14 million people living here there are also about 150000 stray animals. A company named Pugedon came up with an excellent idea and got the government to agree to them placing food dispensaries around the city. Not only do these vending machines provide food and water, but they also help to promote recycling. Genius! The dispensers dish out pet food every time someone puts a plastic bottle inside. It also has a container where you can pour the remainder of your water to make sure stray cats and dogs also have something to drink. How fantastic is that? Previously, the government had been drafting a law that allowed city dogs to be sent to “wildlife parks” on city outskirts. Hmm, Hunger Games anyone?!?

Many locals seem quite comfortable with, and even enjoy, having the free-roaming animals around. During my time walking around I also saw lots of locals feeding the animals proper pet food plus homemade shelters dotted along streets. Rather touching is the fact that the Turks are very much against euthanasia of dogs and cats for “population control”. This is in contrast to, for example, the U.S. where euthanasia of healthy but unwanted dogs has been a common, although controversial, public health policy for a long time. Both my canine furkids are rescues from Californian "high kill" shelters. A strategy being tried in Turkey is trap-spay/neuter-vaccinate/treat and release. Free-roaming dogs are picked up off the streets and taken to local shelters where they are spayed or neutered, vaccinated for rabies and other diseases, treated for minor illnesses, ear-tagged for identification, and then released back to the neighbourhood where they were trapped. I saw many tagged dogs and it was wonderful to see a more humane way to deal with a worldwide problem.

Today was my last day in Istanbul before I fly to Nairobi, Kenya tonight. I admittedly sat on a patio for the morning in the sun after hand washing & drying (thanks to cranking up a radiator) my clothes and picking up an awesomely gaudy pair of running tights from the Nike store. It was nice to recharge my batteries after a couple of hectic non-stop days. As it stands right now there is currently no-one in either of the two seats next to me on my flight, let's hope it stays that way as sprawling out and sleeping would be a rather wonderful coup, if I can pull it off.

Next stop..... Africa!

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