Sunday, May 6, 2007

Lazovsky Nature Reserve (April 17-21, 2007)

On April 17 I took my second out of town trip since beginning the Fulbright – to Lazovsky Zapovednik, located about 200 km (a 5-hour bus ride) north of Vladivostok. A “zapovednik” is a strictly-protected nature reserve, where the only activities allowed are scientific research, environmental education and nature protection (mostly processing violations). No tourism. The zapovedniks in Russia fall into the World Conservation Union’s Category 1 for strictest protected nature reserves. The first Russian zapovednik was created in 1916 (Bargunzinsky, on Lake Baikal), and today there are 101 zapovedniks in Russia. Lazovsky was originally created in the 1930s as an affiliate of Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik (further north in the Primorye Region). It provides protection for several rare and threatened species: the Amur tiger, sika deer, and the goral, which looks kind of like a large black mountain goat. Today Lazovsky is considered one of the most successful nature reserves in Russia, particularly in terms of its environmental education and nature protection activities.

I was lucky enough to meet the director of Lazovsky Zapovednik, Aleksandr Laptev, in February on Kamchatka, and in March he invited me to the town of Lazo, on the border of the reserve, where the zapovednik headquarters are located. I lived at the zapovednik headquarters for 3 full days (April 18-20) and got a first inside look at the way the reserve works. At the end of my trip, we preliminarily agreed that I will come back to Lazovsky Zapovednik at the end of July to spend 10 days working with the reserve’s environmental education staff on Petrov Island, one of the most well-known natural places in the Primorye Region.

Picture: The sign for the Lazovsky Zapovednik main offices and nature museum and visitor's center. Since this sign is located on the main road running from Vladivostok through the Primorye Region, the reserve's museum and visitor's center get a number of visitors who are just passing through. The museum is considered the second most successful nature museum in Primorye, with over 4000 visitors each year.

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