Supporters from both home and abroad have been expressing their disappointment and surprise at news of the closure of one of the Muğla region’s best-known institutions.

Kaptan June’s Turtle Museum and Visitor Centre at Iztuzu Beach not far from Dalyan has been a popular attraction for years, helping to educate both locals and tourists about the two species which nest in the area every year.

Originally inspired by the fight against plans from a hotel along the beach in the late 1980s, June Haimoff became a champion for the turtles and a figurehead for conservationism.

Iztuzu Beach – fiercely protected by the foundation formed to fight off bids for development back in the 1980s. Picture by Steve Parsley.

Educational role

She worked with Turkish partners to help establish the Sea Turtle Conservation Foundation in 2011 to liaise between sponsors, government ministers and volunteers to enhance and protect the animals’ habitat.

The museum and visitor centre on the beach has also helped to educate both tourists and locals about the turtles’ role in the Mediterranean and their importance to the region’s eco-system.

Winning an MBE for her work in the UK’s New Year Honours list in 2011, Kaptan June also led campaigns to better protect turtles and to limit their manipulation by local tourism businesses.

However, early yesterday, the foundation used its Facebook page to announce the immediate closure of the museum and visitor centre on Iztuzu Beach, citing difficulties with staffing and administration.

Difficult and risky

A statement reads: “This decision has not been taken lightly but, with the various pressures placed on a small charity with no Turkish citizen present on a regular basis, managing the operation and the Hut and keeping within the regulations will be too difficult and risky to continue.

“Kaptan June is not closing the foundation but things will have to be organised very differently in the future.

“Please bear with us and we shall be posting more information in due course.”

Some have expressed concern that the announcement by the foundation also affected the Dekamer turtle hospital and research operation at Iztuzu but the two centres are run under different banners – the latter under the umbrella of Pamukkale University.

A patient at the Turtle Hospital at Iztuzu – not affected by this week’s surprise announcement. Picture by Steve Parsley.

The Dekamer hospital and research centre is not affected and remains open to the public.

Nevertheless, the news has been greeted with sadness by Kaptan June’s supporters, with over 100 comments posted below the Facebook statement.

Justin Froggatt wrote: “A sad day but what a difference she has made. I hope they can keep the developers away and protect the nesting grounds.”

Nenad Kostic added: “I was looking forward to bring my son to the hut in September and to show him the place that was very dear and important to me. I guess that the hut could not escape some of the changes that Turkey is going through. Very best of luck and I hope that you find a way to carry on.”