(AP) - Turkey is renaming three indigenous animals to eliminate references to Kurdistan and Armenia, the Environment and Forestry Ministry announced Friday, saying the old names were given by foreigners with designs on the country's unity.
A species of red fox known as "Vulpes Vulpes Kurdistanica" will now be known as just "Vulpes Vulpes," a species of wild sheep called "Ovis Armeniana" was changed to "Ovis Orientalis Anatolicus," and a type of deer known as "Capreolus Capreolus Armenus" was renamed "Capreolus Cuprelus Capreolus," a ministry statement said.
"Unfortunately, foreign scientists, who for many years researched Turkey's flora and fauna, named plant and animal species that they had never come across before with a prejudiced mind-set," the statement said. "Unfortunately, there are many species in our country that were named in this way with ill intent. This ill intent is so obvious that even species that are endemic to our country were given names that are against our unitary structure," the statement added.
Eastern Anatolia was once home to a large Armenian population. Armenians accuse Turkey of genocide, saying that 1.5 million Armenians in eastern Turkey were slaughtered as the Ottoman Empire forced Armenians out of eastern Anatolia. Turkey denies the genocide and says the death count is inflated. Many Turks fear that neighboring Armenia, which Turkey does not formally recognize, aspires to reclaim the territory where Armenians once lived.
Turkey also fears that Kurds living in the southeast aspire to break away from the country. Turkey has been battling autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels since 1984. Some 37,000 people have died as a result of the conflict.
The ministry said the new names were chosen through scientific research. It was not clear why Turkish authorities have waited until now to change the names. It was also not clear if the name changes would be internationally recognized.