Tree planting for Earth Day in biodiversity hotspot SEARCH NEWS

Local school children plant trees

Yesterday, in celebration of Earth Day 2012 our partners in Armenia worked with the local community to plant trees in their reserve to improve this habitat for wildlife

Local people, from the village of Urtsadzor, marked Earth Day by volunteering with their nearby conservation organisation, Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC ),planting trees in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge neighbouring their homes in south-western Armenia.

This demonstration of support for conservation will greatly improve the reserve’s habitat for their resident Brown Bears, Grey Wolves, and Bezoar Ibex (or Armenia Wild Goat, Capra Aegagrus aegarus). The Bezoar is a spectacular animal, with horns nearly as long as its body, and only exists in the Caucasus region.

Ruben Khachatryan, FPWC’s founder, said:

“This area was once covered by trees and shrubs, but in early 1990s when Armenia was experiencing a severe energy crisis the trees were illegally logged and now we are trying to restore it.”

This year, FPWC will plant 2,000 trees in the reserve thanks their partners World Land Trust (WLT) and their corporate supporter VivaCell-MTS.

The reserve is extremely rich in flora, as well as fauna, and among its highlights are the ancient juniper trees and the endemic flower, Iris elegantissima.

Tree planting

Volunteers plant trees in the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge near their homes to improve this habitat after it was illegally logged during Armenia’s 1990s energy crisis © FPWC

Wildlife sightings: kittens and cubs

By funding head ranger Manuk Manukyan, through the Keepers of the Wild programme, WLT is helping FPWC protect the reserve and all its wildlife.

Manuk is training three new rangers, all from the local community, who are working towards reducing illegal hunting in the reserve to protect its threatened wildlife.

A den of a Caucasian Wild Cat (Felis silvestris caucasica) with kittens – a species Endangered throughout its range – is one of the many recent wildlife sightings within the reserve. Manuk said:

“It seems that the reserve is home to a couple of these beautiful animals who are usually solitary but seek company during the mating season in late winter. The area offers an ideal habitat for these small predators, as there is an abundance of prey, such as hares, mice, lizards and birds.”

The rangers have also seen Brown Bears in the reserve – including a female with two cubs – and wolves have been spotted preying on a healthy population of Bezoar Ibex; overhunting of this species has caused a dramatic decline in the wild population.

The habitat for all these species will be enhanced thanks to the tree planting work of yesterday’s volunteers – ensuring a successful Earth Day for Armenia’s wildlife.

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