Endangered Breed May Have Been Wiped Out in Sinop

TURKEY - Hacikadin chickens are in severe danger - and may have already been wiped out - in their native home of northern Turkey as the result of bird flu fears.
calendar icon 21 August 2008
clock icon 4 minute read

When local artist Melih Görgün decided to organize an international biennial in the Black Sea province of Sinop two years ago, he also wanted to produce an art project featuring the region's chicken, the hacikadin, reports Turkish Daily Times.

His aim was to make this unique type of chicken visible to the artistic community and thus promote it at the international level.

He spent some time in different neighborhoods of Sinop looking for hacikadins. His search was futile. He first thought the chickens could be protected at a distinct place with special care, but soon after he learned the remaining hacikadins had been slaughtered during a tragic episode of avian influenza that tens of people and caused numerous types of poultry to be slaughtered in eastern Asia.

Hacikadin was a centuries-old symbol of Sinop and a type of endangered species that only 10 of its members had remained in the region when, influenced by the news and driven by an exaggerated fear of impending devastation, locals of Sinop, an ancient port city on the coast of the Black Sea, slaughtered the city's unique hacikadin (literally translated as 'hadjiwoman') chickens without having conducted any scientific study on whether they had the disease or not.

Mr Görgün was shocked and decided to protest the incident through art. He began working on it during the first International Sinop Biennial, which was held two years ago.

Today, the only way to see a hacikadin chicken is to pay a visit to the Archeology Museum of Sinop since it is home to a small hacikadin sculpture made out of cardboard.

Hacikadins in Art

"We live in a global village," said Mr Görgün. "Our daily life here in Sinop was much affected by the bird flu. This is funny but at the same time quite tragic. An ancient species has been destroyed in our city because of a silly phobia."

To protest the slaughter of hacikadins, he produced a hacikadin statue using cardboard and placed his work in a cage at the museum. He later broadened the scope of his project and printed a total of 42,500 bulletins about hacikadins. Then he distributed those bulletins at shopping centres.

"We have lost the genuine hacikadins and now he have a cardboard replica of it displayed at the museum," he said, his tone reflecting the irony.

"We humans have been losing one by one the assets of our global village and we have gradually been disturbing the natural balances," he said.

Mr Görgün said the hacikadin chicken produced about 95 eggs a year and that its meat was of very high quality. Loss of hacikadins, therefore, means loss of an economic asset, he said.

Unknown Population

Turan Çakmak from Sinop's Directorate of Agriculture told Turkish Daily News that they have not conducted a study on hacikadin chickens in the city.

"Without a detailed research on them, it would not be correct to make any comments," he said.

Öznur Poyraz, professor of veterinary sciences at Ankara University, also said that no special (or scientific) study had been conducted in Sinop on hacikadins within the last 10 years. Professor Poyraz said claims that the hacikadin chicken had become extinct or was a type of endangered species do not reflect the truth.

Staff from Doga Dernegi (Nature Association) said they heard some rumours about what was going on in Sinop but did not have the chance to investigate. Yet, they said, numerous types of poultry were slaughtered in different parts of the world during the avian influenza outbreaks without making certain they had the disease or not.

Hacikadin is often described as a type of poultry that originates from Gerze district of Sinop province. It has long, black and bright feathers and a twisted, coal-black tail. Its most significant characteristic is its red comb, which looks like two separate horns on both sides of its head. What differentiates hacikadins from other types of chickens is that it squats down when eating its food because of the unusual length of the four claws on its feet.

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