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Keeper of the Wild update: More rangers protecting Armenian wildlife reserve from hunters

4 August, 2011 - 10:53 -- World Land Trust

Ranger from Armenia, Manuk Manukyan, is funded through the World Land Trust’s (WLT) Keepers of the Wild appeal. Here he reports on the three new rangers who are helping him protect the wildlife reserve from hunters and ensure its conservation for the future

Lammergeier in flight

A Lammergeier in flight over the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge. Photo © Manuk Manukyan/FPWC.

“The last three months, from May to July, were very busy in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge here in Armenia. In May, we started to search for three more rangers to support me in monitoring our reserve. “There were many people in the village who asked for the job as unemployment is a huge problem in rural Armenia. However, we had to be very careful to choose the right people and to create a good team from the very beginning. The work involves many hours together outside in the wilderness, so the qualities such as sociability, patience, and good temper become very important.

Providing jobs for local people

“We were looking for rangers with good communication skills as they may need to deal with hunters, shepherds and other people who are intruding into the protected area. Also, it was very important that they should have a positive attitude to nature and strongly identify with their new role as protectors of wildlife. “At the end of June we made three new appointments; Virab Mkhitaryan, Hovik Asatryan and Karo Aristakeskyan and we are looking forward to our new rangers supporting our work to ensure biodiversity conservation in the reserve. All three are from Urtsadzor village and were jobless, so our conservation project has already started to have a positive impact on village life as they would probably have migrated to Russia without this new job opportunity.

Success for reducing hunting

“Since three rangers are now regularly patrolling the land we can generally say that the hunters don’t dare intrude into the area any more. But of course there are many people who are resistant to this new approach and they take revenge by destroying our signboards. Just recently three of the 12 new signboards put up in late June were destroyed. We will continue to reinstate them in the hope that they will finally get tired of the vandalism, but this may take several months and a lot of communication with the surrounding villages. “The rangers oversee the reserve mainly on horseback at the moment, but we are thinking of purchasing a second-hand jeep. With the jeep the rangers would be able to monitor and prevent hunters who are intruding into the area by car. It would also help to transport materials to the new ranger station, recently set up so that the rangers can stay overnight and we are installing solar panels to provide them with electricity.

Wildlife sightings and monitoring

Kestrel in flight

A Kestrel flies over the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge. Kestrels are one of the many bird species Manuk has found nesting on the reserve. Photo © Manuk Manukyan/FPWC

“I am teaching the new rangers to write down their observations in report sheets and how to recognise the most important animal species, in particular birds. In the past few months we saw Grey Partridge, Chukar, Rufous-Tailed Rock Thrush, Finsch’s Wheatear, Lammergeier, Buzzard, Common Kestrel and many others.

Our reserve is amazingly rich in bird species and we have many nests. In the steep rock face just in front of the rangers’ station we found a nest of Lammergeiers. We can also see many Bezoar Goats in the area, especially the females that often gather together for grazing in the early mornings on a plain in the centre of our reserve.”

More information on the Keepers of the Wild appeal

As with all the rangers funded by the Keepers of the Wild appeal, Manuk will post regular up-dates about his work to protect the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge in Armenia. To help support these rangers, by providing much needed resources or putting more people in the field to protect wildlife, donate to the Keepers of the Wild appeal.

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