A survey of all the major potential habitats in western Turkey showed that medicinal leeches, Hirudo medicinalis L., are widely distributed over the country and are not rare. They occur in practically all suitable habitats and the only region where they were found to be absent is that of the large river deltas in the south of the country (Çukurova deltas, Göksu delta). There may be zoogeographic reasons for this (Taurus mountains barrier). The application of a semi-quantitative survey method using collecting efficiency (number of leeches collected per hour by a single person) allowed a rapid assessment to be made of its status in a large number of wetlands. Leech density varied considerably from wetland to wetland, and the results enabled a ranking of the Turkish wetlands to be made according to their importance for medicinal leeches. Taking both the leech density and the size of leech habitats into account, the largest populations were identified on the Black Sea coast (Kizilirmak delta, Yeşilirmak delta and Karagöl Marshes near Sinop) and in inner and south-west Anatolia (Eber Gölü, Karamik and Sultan Marshes). Commercial exploitation for the pharmaceutical industry and for other purposes takes place at only a few places and does not appear to affect the population seriously. However, many populations are threatened by the draining of their habitats.