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Turkey saves cats from extinction

After two decades of arduous work, a university research center in eastern Turkey has saved the precious Van cats from extinction.
Van, TURKEY:  Van cat is seen at the Cat House Center in the eastern city of Van, Turkey, 19 January 2006. The bird-flu virus supposedly spreads to humans only if they come into contact with infected birds and poses no known threat to cats. But veterinarians, which is at the centre of the outbreak, are not taking any chances with the famous cats of Van, a protected species with white fur, auburn markings and different-coloured eyes. AFP PHOTO  MUSTAFA OZER  (Photo credit should read MUSTAFA OZER/AFP/Getty I
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The world-famous Van cats, snow-white, with odd colored eyes and found in Turkey’s eastern province of Van, have been saved from the threat of extinction. Their number, both in Van and other Turkish regions, is now near a thousand. The Van Cats Research Center, established by Van’s Yuzuncu Yil University in 1992, has played a key role in saving the species from extinction. The number of purebred Van cats at the center has increased from 30 in 1992 to 144 in 2014. In the 23 years since its creation, the center has also given away hundreds of cats to animal lovers in Van on the condition that the felines remain under the center’s scrutiny. The cats have been issued ID cards and the university has banned them from being sold or given away as presents. Taking the cats abroad is also prohibited.

Distinguished for their white silky coat and mismatched eye color — usually one amber, one blue — and their swimming talent, the Van cats were declared a “national species” in a communique published in Turkey’s Official Gazette in 2006. The same year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources included the Van cat into its report on endangered species, listing it among 16,111 species across the world faced with the threat of extinction due to human abuses. The report contributed greatly to accelerating the project to save the cats, which have lived with the peoples of Anatolia for millennia.

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