A university has set up a monitoring system to track Turkey's endangered swimming Van cats which are famous for their odd eyes, as well as their love of water.

 

The Van Cat Watch System will be run by researchers at Yuzuncu Yil University's Van Cat Research and Practice Centre in the city of Van, in eastern Turkey's Van Province.

 

Researchers aim to catch cats and insert a chip underneath their skin to track information about the animals and their offspring throughout their lifetimes.

 

Professor Abdullah Kaya, the general manager of the Van Cat Research and Practice Centre, said the main aim was to ensure the long-term survival of the Van cat.

 

The Van cat is a distinctive type of domestic cat that has been living in the vicinity of the city of Van and the general Lake Van area for centuries.

 

They are renowned for their habit of swimming in the lake and for their distinctive blue or amber eyes. Many Van cats are odd eyed with one of each.

 

The Van cat has also come to be regarded as a symbol of the city of Van and a giant statue of a Van cat and her kitten stands at the entrance to the city.

 

The cats are lean, long-legged and have a chalky white coat, sometimes with amber markings around the tail and ears. They are said to be intelligent and affectionate.

 

They have been claimed as a cultural icon by Armenians and Kurds, as well as Turks, who have all lived in the region.

 

Armenians revere the Van cat and consider it to be historically Armenian as they inhabited the Lake Van area from ancient times until the genocide of 1915.

 

Meanwhile, Kurds, who are widespread in the Van region, refer to it as the 'Kurdish cat', and have made it a nationalist symbol of an independent Kurdistan.

 

It is not a separate species but a landrace of the domestic cat. A landrace is a variety of a species that has developed over time, through adaptation to its environment.

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Author: Mert Su