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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Ecology of Love (Part II)

(Continued from here)

We are not kids playing war games

-  What does the Direction of specially protected natural territories of Republic Tyva, that you are the head of, do, Chaizu Suvan-oolovna?

- We protect the natural complexes of the prohibited territories, and monitor the condition of their resources. We do that by patrolling those territories, performing raids, and make sure that the laws are observed. Each of the protected territories has its own regime of protection.

Here in Tuva we have fifteen protected territories and one natural park. We have 19 inspectors protecting them in the field.

The territories have different areas, but the way it works out is that  whether it is 100 thousand hectares or 30 thousand, one person has to do the work.

If you put together the total area of all the protected territories  -  700 thousand hectares  -  and average it out, each inspector is responsible for more than 35 thousand hectares on the average. That is very much.

In Krasnoyarsk Krai this number is 20 thousand, and in Tatarstan - 11 thousand hectares.

On a raid.  Chaizu Kyrgys with Kherel Sunduy and Mergen Danzyn-ool. Balgazyn preserve. August 21, 2010.On a raid. Chaizu Kyrgys with Kherel Sunduy and Mergen Danzyn-ool. Balgazyn preserve. August 21, 2010.And how do you manage to do it with so few people?

- It is not simple, because I have a great wish to put together a good working team. We have experienced specialists with a  long work record as well as young people. We try to get rid of random people.

Many people on the staff came to us from law enforcement. They know how to put together a protocol and how to work with law-breakers. But here it is not just finding them, capturing them and “put them in the line-up”, but to some extent one has to be also a biologist and a good observer. Those who think that our work is just to chase poachers and play war like we were still kids are mistaken.

First of all, to be able to protect the territory, the inspector has to know it very well. Just like a herder knows his herd, knows how many heads of cattle he has, where and what kind of grass grows on the pastures, our inspectors should know exactly where and how many animals live on his territory.

Mostly our inspectors know their  “household”.   But sometimes it happens that we go somewhere on a raid, and we are better oriented than the territory’s supervisor.

I do not demand that they know each hare by sight. But it is certainly possible to know what animals live in his territory, where they go to drink, where there is a salt-lick, what time of day and where they hide or hibernate.

The inspectors have journals where they write down everything they see, observe or notice. We do not demand this to be a deeply scientific research. Even though we support in every possible way those who want to  go on studying or go on to aspiranture. We really do not want quality people like that to go into some other field.

Not to lose what we have

And why are natural protected territories necessary?

- Territories are not chosen for protection at random. It is not just any place; these areas are carefully selected - they are the places which are the best for many animals to live and breed.

As a parting word to the poachers, I would like to say: “You do not have to hunt in a prohibited territory. Let the animals grow and breed, and to disperse to other places, then you can get a license and hunt them there without problems.”

Nobody says:  let’s make the whole of Tuva into a protected, prohibited territory. It would not work, but there has to be some balance. The people from the West are right to warn us, we should not lose what we have. And for that, we need the protected territories.

Abroad, people have squeezed animals out to tiny segments of land which are all that is left between cities and settlements. If, instead of Seserlig, Kara-Khaak and Kyzyl we had three megalopolises like there, the animals would be running around in those small areas like in the palm of your hand.

Foreigners come and ask: “Well, where are your animals? Whom are you protecting, show us.”

So we have to answer that in contrast to Europe, where you can see animals at a distance of 100-200 meters, here they still have enough places to hide, so that it is very difficult to see them.

What you can and can’t do in a protected territory

-  So because now there are protected territories -  fifteen prohibited territories and one natural park - all around, now you can’t even take a walk in the forest?

- Why not, of course you can. Our prohibited territories are for the most part located in the taiga zone, and it is permitted to go there and pick berries, mushrooms, or just to be there. But you can’t hunt, even if you have a license.

The licenses, which are issued by the State hunting and fishing commission, state the species of animal, number, the place where the hunting is to be done, down to the exact canyon or spot, but they are not issued for the specially protected territories.

In a protected territory  it is not allowed to cut down trees, to make fires during dry season, to build structures or electric lines, or to carry out industrial works. It is also not allowed to build new roads, and  driving is allowed only on roads of  public use, if there are any there.

We are proud that Tuvan nature is good condition, but it is a fragile balance which it would be easy to disturb. Human population is growing, prosperity is increasing, human life-span is increasing, the demand for resources is growing, but they have to be able to renew.

Using more, we should be giving back more, too. Protection of nature is one of forms of preserving the balance.

-  It is not allowed to cut down trees in a protected territory, yet your recent raid reported that in Balgazyn preserve they are cutting down trees by permission of the Balgazyn forest administration office. How is it possible?

- In this particular case, the local forest administration did not have the right to give such a permission. The case is now under investigation, and if it reaches a lawful conclusion, the forest administration will have to pay damages. It would be good if this becomes a lesson for everybody.

Unfortunately, there are precedents that local forest administrations gave permission for preparation of timber in a protected territory. And this is high quality timber, living trees, which they use to build houses. If it turns out that they have been cutting down trees for timber on the protected territory with the permission of local forest administration, it is a case for the courts.

It is not a military polygon

Each inspector's realm can't be seen in its entirety without or with binoculars. Chaizu Kyrgys and Kherel Sunduy. Balgazyn preserve, August 21, 2010.Each inspector's realm can't be seen in its entirety without or with binoculars. Chaizu Kyrgys and Kherel Sunduy. Balgazyn preserve, August 21, 2010.-  And if almost all our territory consists of preserves, where are people supposed to take building materials or for firewood?

- There are plenty of other forest territories in Tuva. All of the protected territories taken together comprise only 8% of the republic’s territory. The federal and republican laws, as well as the Forest codex state that in specially protected territories only cutting trees for sanitary reasons is permitted.

Respecting that, we meet people who need wood halfway. People come for permission to the local forest administration. We know where all the dry and dead trees are, and permit them to use it for firewood. After discussing it with us, they conclude a contract of purchase and sale with the forest administration.

We will not suppose that wood for construction of houses is being stolen from the protected territories.  Our territory is very large, and forests are everywhere. But, unfortunately, nobody will go to Kungurtug to cut trees, it is easier to go to the nearest protected territory.

Out enemy is the accessibility of our natural preserves. Cutting down trees is problem number one, and it is becoming more and more  relevant every year.

It is distressing that in the kozhuuns they often think that the protected territories do not play a big role in their economy. People there seriously think that these territories were taken away from them.

But it is their land and economy. And a single inspector can’t protect the territory from fires, poachers and law-breakers; the people themselves should be concerned about the resources there, how many animals, berries, mushrooms grow there, and help to solve the problems with us.

It is good that it is not like that everywhere. Our inspectors in Kaa-Khem kozhuun are working closely with the administration. The leadership there knows its protected territories, are proud of them, do not allow fires to start, and support the inspectors.

What should the leaders of the kozhuuns do to become masters of the protected territories?

- They have to help integrate these territories into the economics of the district. Specially protected territories can be an untouchable reserve and a storeroom, where you can go for resources, but it has to be done rationally.

Our first and foremost task is to preserve unique territories, and the second, that they would be useful as well. Why could the settlements not organize small home industries to prepare berries, nuts, mushrooms or medicinal herbs? Why not set up hunting co-operatives on territories adjacent to the preserves, which would be, so to speak, supplied from there?

It is not necessary to perceive the protected territories  as a completely closed area, it is not a military polygon.

Animals and the railroad

-  Can the railroad construction have an effect on the flora and fauna of the preserve that it will be transecting?

- The railroad is routed right through the center of the Eerbek preserve, and we are very worried about it.

This preserve has almost all the representative animals of  a taiga fauna - bear, moose, lynx, wolverine, musk deer. Even manul, which is listed in the Red Book of Tuva. In the seventies of last century, even snow leopard used to be seen there.

Animals do not stay in one place for very long, they have seasonal migrations. They need places for fattening themselves up, for breeding, for feeding and rearing their young. That is why we established the protected territory in the basin of Eerbek river in the first place.

The valley of Eerbek river is a very comfortable place for wintering for the large hoofed animals, who migrate south over the Uyuk ridge.

There is less snowfall there in comparison with the north part, that is why the animals spend winters there, and in the spring they go back over the ridge to cooler places in the taiga.

I have to say that our ministry of natural resources is paying great attention to the ecological aspect of the railroad construction project, and there are mandatory meetings with the planners of the project at every stage.

The most important part is to minimize the negative impact of the railroad on natural systems in the whole.

The animals could be frightened by the noise of the construction and later of the train?

- The factor of  disturbance always leads to changes. The animals’ migration routes are transected, and they could leave and go far away. There is a possibility that the population of animals will decrease.

During the planning stage, we showed the migration routes to the planners. As the engineers decided, the rails will be placed on high bridges, and animals can move freely under them.

Of course, the animals need time to get used to the existence of the railroad.  Generations of animals should grow up next to the railroad without fear.

In Canada, on a bridge from one mountain to another, they planted trees for the animals, to make it as close to natural environment as possible.

We don’t know how our ecosystems will react to the railroad. To understand it, we have to start monitoring the territory of the preserve right now.

It is necessary to build a base where observations will be carried out not just of animals, but the impact of the railroad on the forest and water will be studied too.

The kharius (salmon-type fish) lives in the  Eerbek river, and what will happen to the river and the fish if the water gets polluted? What impact will the railroad have on small animals, birds and insects? There are many questions.

Serious scientific power is necessary to study and observe all the changes associated with the railroad construction.

A poacher is not a hungry, but a well-to-do person

- Who is the contemporary poacher - is it somebody who had to resort to hunting in the taiga because of hunger, or somebody for whom hunting is  -  royal  sport?

- The maral (deer) and roe-deer are getting exterminated by poachers. They hunt musk deer. It is good that in good conditions these animals quickly replace their population.

It is not possible to construct a single portrait of a poacher. They are different. But over all, it is clear that a poacher is somebody in comfortable circumstances.

Naturally, he needs a rifle, and rifles here are very expensive. He needs transportation, and some tiny “Zhiguli” won‘t do, it has to be a “UAZ” or some other off-road vehicle, which uses expensive fuel.

Rifle, ammunition, equipment, food - all that costs a lot of money. It is very rare that somebody would hunt for nourishment. So it comes out that it is a royal sport.

There were cases when they tried to convince us that they took their rifles to the preserve because they were afraid to go into the forest, that they were afraid of wolves and who knows what else. All kinds of excuses they think of.

- How do the poachers behave when you confront them? Are they aggressive and dangerous?

- It differs. It depends on the inspector. If he is rough, they answer in kind. I try to behave to them with maximum objectivity.

According to our service instructions, we may never raise our voices with anybody. Even with obvious evidence of law-breaking we have to explain what law exactly they have broken. The preserve territories are very large, and sometimes people do not realize that they are not in the regular forest anymore, but in a protected territory.

But there are situations when you have to put people sharply in their place, if they try to “pressure” you and behave aggressively. But we have the authority to do that.

- You are a fragile woman, and then poachers are armed.  Aren’t you afraid?

- I can’t say that I am not afraid. Of course I am afraid. Especially when you don’t know what could happen. According to instructions, we can’t go on raids alone.

I had several cases when I was hunting poachers, and they were very dumbfounded that they were arrested by a woman. I think that this circumstance has its advantages, because when they see a woman, even one in a state inspector’s uniform, the law-breakers’ aggression somehow fizzles out.

- For Tuvans, hunting is a traditional occupation. Local people, when they are arrested as poachers, are probably terribly upset,  look, I have bee hunting here all my life, just like our fathers and grandfathers.

- So what that he has been hunting there all his life? Even if he had grown up there, if it is a protected territory, he is breaking the law.

Things have to be explained in such a way that he starts feeling ashamed, if his heart is really so attached to his native place.

- But were there cases that they would threaten the inspectors and shoot at them?

- In my time, there were no such cases. But the guys could tell you stories from the bad 90’s, when they were shot at, and they were ready to shoot back. In some cases, there was revenge for an arrest.

And all this - right in front of children

We are inseparable from nature. Guns have been confiscated, report is being written. At the same time, Chaizu Kyrgys discusses the matter with the poacher. Balgazyn preserve, August 21, 2010.We are inseparable from nature. Guns have been confiscated, report is being written. At the same time, Chaizu Kyrgys discusses the matter with the poacher. Balgazyn preserve, August 21, 2010.- You have been on duty the whole summer at Khadyn and Dus-Khol lakes. What are your impressions from this work?

- Our republic has 15 monuments of nature, and all of them are in the territories of various kozhuuns. The Khadyn and Dus-Khol lakes are in Tandy kozhuun. They are natural monuments of significance for the whole region.

Beside them - there are lakes Cheder, Chagytai, Sut-Khol, Azas, Tore-Khol, Tere-Khol, White lake, and mineral springs - arzhaans Shivilig, Sug-Bazhy, Tarys, Ush-Beldir and Khutinsky rapids are natural monuments.

In Russian practice, natural monuments are protected by municipal districts, where they are located. We did not foresee a special status for them.

This summer we organized supervision at  Khadyn and Dus-Khol lakes, and practically left nobody at our other territories. When the Tandy inspector was working at the lakes, his 100 thousand plus hectares were left without supervision. I think that we should not take such a risk again.

For us, work at those lakes was shock therapy - to see such immense crowds of people, and almost every one of them a potential law-breaker.

Ignoring the prescribed water-protection zone of 50 meters, they all wanted to get right into the lake with their cars.  Or else they set themselves up in such a way that they could roll out of the tent right into the lake.

Not only the nature-protection laws were broken, but even simple rules of behavior. It was very difficult to talk to peole, to try talking them into not leaving garbage after them, and to take their car 50 meters away.

If  at least some of the people at Dus-Khol were there for health reasons, then at Khadyn people came just to have a wild time: to drink and get a suntan. And not just young people, often they were people of mature age.

Problem number one was the blatant disregard for the 50 meter water protection zone, and garbage was number two.

At the peak of the season, 3000 people came to the lakes every day. You can put 30 inspectors there, and there will be mountains of garbage anyway, because the vacationers constantly keep throwing stuff out and leaving it on the beach.

And all this is done right in front of the children, who will later show the same behavior to their own kids.

If we hadn’t started picking up the garbage at the lakes in May, and if students and schoolchildren did not participate in  cleaning actions, those lake would be gone.

During the summer season, after the vacationers, more than eight “KamAZ” trucks of garbage were taken to Kyzyl, because there are no organized garbage dumps in the area. But there is still more garbage.

Waste has to be not just removed, it also has to be utilized. We have to set up a system for utilization of at least plastic bottles, that would be great.

Abroad, I like very much the system of separating garbage. Cardboard and paper are stored separately, bottles separately, and organic matter in another bag.

Now my heart hurts when I see everything thrown out together. But even her, we put glass jars, bottles and “TetraPak” wrappings separately we could start the system of separating garbage here in the republic as well.

In Ulan-Bator they collect plastic from the population and take it to China. Even though before there were plastic bottles everywhere and plastic bags were flying through the city, now they are gone. Everything gets collected and taken away.

In Krasnoyarsk there is also no such problem, everything is clean. They utilize tin cans, plastic and glass.

We are a part of her

- Where are the weak links in our nature, those that are delicate, and could break?

- Forest and water an be harmed by people. Now there is a lot of building, setting up houses. People want to live in beautiful houses, and to have furniture made of natural materials - it is ecological.

But why are we today so fearless, thinking that forest is an endless resource? Of course, it is a renewable resource,  but if you want to get utilizable timber in our Siberian taiga the tree has to grow for 100 years.

Eilig-Khem, the place where I was born, was overtaken by an ecologic catastrophe. Where did our clean ponds disappear, the little river where we used to bathe as children, the aryks spreading through the fields and gardens? Today it is all under the Sayan reservoir.

So that this would not be repeated, we have to know that everything in nature is interconnected: if you cut down trees on the shores, the rivers and lakes will dry out.

For an ecologist, everything around us is Nature. I am always surprised when people say “We went out into nature”. the majority of people perceive themselves as something apart from nature.

It is time for us to realize that we are not separate from Nature, we are a part of her.

Sayana Ondur, Center of Asia #44, translated by Heda Jindrak
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