Environmental secrets

International Scientific Centre of Wild Nature Support — Kransy Bor — opens in Izubritsa village (Verkhnedvinsk District, Vitebsk Region)

International Scientific Centre of Wild Nature Support — Kransy Bor — opens in Izubritsa village (Verkhnedvinsk District, Vitebsk Region)

 The Centre is a Republican Landscape Reserve on the border of Rossony and Verkhnedvinsk Districts, and incorporates a hunting company run by Novopolotsk’s private Interservice company. The northern auroch population lives here and, in February, the hunting company co-founded the International Scientific Centre of Wild Nature: Krasny Bor. This aims to unite efforts by state and public organisations, as well as commercial structures, to protect and encourage Belarus’ natural wealth. Recently, an amazing event took place: the opening of the country’s first private scientific centre.

Building of the private scientific centre

Interests coincide

The scientific centre is located in a comfortable two-storey guest house, incorporating a hotel, a hostel for staff and a laboratory. Andrey Faibich, who heads the laboratory, tells us, “We have everything necessary to detect DNA from animal hair. This is primarily important to conduct genetic passportisation of the aurochs: Belarus’ national animal. As only 3,000 exist globally, all are close relatives, so we need to aim for maximum genetic diversity. Moreover, we plan to control the genetics of our red deer, to improve their characteristics by selection.”

It’s no secret that, at present, there is a misbalance between science and practice in the field of hunting, with obsolete approaches often used. The Centre aims to tackle this, as the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Igor Kachanovsky, noted during his recent visit to Verkhnedvinsk District. He promises that all possible support will be rendered, saying, “The Centre’s key goals are in line with national strategy, aiming to preserve and ensure sustainable use of our biological diversity. I’m convinced that practical appliance of scientists’ developments will help to solve complex tasks at state level.”

Alexander Dunkovich, the Deputy Head of State Inspection of Flora and Fauna Protection, agrees, saying, “Progress is impossible without science in our modern world. At present, the National Academy of Sciences and state institutions are working in the field of nature protection. The Krasny Bor hunting company is a good example of private capital working alongside the state. I hope other regions of the country will join us.”

Eagle habitats

The first event at the new Centre was a conference devoted to the Krasny Bor auroch population, and to the development of ecological tourism. Participants agreed that the Centre should not focus exclusively on applied hunting developments but should unite ichthyologists, botanists, photographers, film operators and ornithologists. The latter even offered a training seminar on building eagle nests.

In addition, specialists made reports and shared methods on making nests for birds of prey — including owls and falcons. According to ornithologists, this can compensate for the lack of natural nests and ease work dealing with birds’ registration and ringing. In addition, observations indicate that they breed more productively in artificial nests.

The most interesting part of the conference began the following day, when bird experts applied their knowledge in practice. Vladimir Ivanovsky — an associate professor at the Vitebsk Masherov State University’s Department of Ecology and Nature Protection — took his team to the Yukhovichsky Mokh marsh, not far from Bolshoe Mokhovoe Lake. He believes that a golden eagle lived on the island at some time.

“I’ve not seen this huge, beautiful bird for the past three years but, jointly with our colleagues, we’ll try to attract it to the site by building an artificial nest,” he explained.

Scientific Centre’s opening ceremony

Three poles are used to support such nests, tied to thick pine tree branches and covered with pine boughs. Mr. Ivanovsky climbed 20m to secure irons and a belt, impressing everyone with his skills: next year, the ornithologist will celebrate his 70th birthday!

There’s no need to climb so high to make a nest for a pigeon hawk: all that’s needed is an old bucket filled with moss, attached to the top of a pine tree, at a height of around 3m, out of reach of foxes, wolves and raccoons.

Live water

Famous photographer and founder of Minsk’s RIFTOUR Editorial Office Sergey Plytkevich, who heads the Krasny Bor International Scientific Centre of Wild Nature Support, tells us, “We’re thankful to the head of Interservice, Nikolay Vorobey, for giving us the opportunity to work in such a picturesque place. With his help, our fund has allocated five grants to support promising scientific papers. One, for the study of wood grouse via fixing special radio transmitters to the birds, was presented during a recent press conference.”

He continues, “All information on this issue is placed on wildlife.by. The Eagle Habitat project is among the first launched by the fund to support wildlife. Another of our initiatives is called Live Water. We’re now collecting information on the most interesting springs in Belarus, planning to develop them, for further inclusion within our tourist routes, and to encourage more people to enjoy them. We’ve initiated Our Region project, which can be explored online at www. nashregion.by. In co-operation with Molodechno District Executive Committee, it includes the most popular ecological routes in the area and lists places to eat, stay and buy souvenirs. Similar sites are planned for Naroch, Braslav, Nesvizh and Mir. Ideally, it would be great to ‘embrace’ the whole country. We’d like our project to help tourists to Belarus become acquainted with the country’s sites and natural beauties.”

Expert opinion

Natalia Minchenko, the Head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection’s Department of Biological and Landscape Diversity:

Jointly with Polish colleagues, we’re discussing creating a trans-border auroch population. On our side, the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Genetics and Cytology is responsible. It would be great if the Krasny Bor private research centre joined us.

Oleg Borodin, the Director of the National Academy of Sciences’ Scientific-Practical Centre on Bio-resources:

We’re keen to ensure that the newly opened private scientific centre works in compliance with a single state policy — meeting international standards. To achieve this, we’re ready to support it in issues of expert assessment, including publication of scientific papers and development of ecological tourist routes.

By Sergey Golesnik

Photo by Sergey Golesnik
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