The Caucasus Wildlife Refuge, the first privately protected area in the South Caucasus is celebrating its 10th anniversary. CWR was established by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets.
FPWC founded CWR in 2010 aiming to conserve the unique and endemic biodiversity of the region; its aim is to contribute to efficient biodiversity protection in Armenia by improving the protection of flora and fauna in previously unsustainably managed buffer zones and wildlife migration corridors, while also benefiting the socioeconomic standing of local communities.
The CWR 10th anniversary celebration event took place on 8th of October in the Eco Center of the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge, not far from Urtsadzor community. The founder and director of the FPWC Ruben Khachatryan, General Manager of Viva-MTS Ralph Yirikian, the governor of Ararat region Razmik Tevonyan, Founder of the M. Sebastatsi Educational Complex Ashot Bleyan, Board members of the FPWC Harutyun Khachatryan, Gagik Ginosyan, Michael Dovlatyan, the Founder of the Artakh Nature Fund Vazgen Mikaelyan and many others were among the guests.
During the 10th Anniversary Event the FPWC team presented the achievements of the CWR within last 10 years and the further development plans, and the anniversary film about CWR was screened. With the cooperation of SunChild International Environmental Festival and Golden Apricot International Film Festival the film “Gunda” by Viktor Kosakovsky was screened at the end of the event.
The Founder of the FPWC Ruben Khachatryan mentioned during his speech: “It’s already 10 years we have established the Caucasus Wildlife Refuge. We started from 300 ha land, and not the Refuge encompasses over 30.000 ha land, and this was possible only with the support of our partners IUCN Netherlands, World Land Trust, Artis Amsterdam Royal Zoo, Viva-MTS, and many other supporters. We’ve received many awards during these years, such as Frankfur Conservation Award. I want to thank my team members, who are always with the Foundation, all the rangers, who work so hard to make our conservation actions possible in the field. I also want to thank Armenian Government, particularly the Ministry of the Environments, which understands the importance of our work, and the golden medal we were awarded by the Ministry is the testimony of it. I am thankful to all our partners, who make us stronger.”
The General Manager of Viva-MTS Ralph Yirikian also had a welcome speech. Viva-MTS was at the root of the creation of CWR and has always supported nature conservation. “There was nothing here, when we arrived in this place for the first time. Everything around looked like a steppe; little or no water, no plants, and even the thought of growing trees would seem too bold. It required much persistence and commitment to start and to implement the project. Life has proven success is where there is purpose and enough willpower. I am happy to state that our partnership for so many years has yielded results. Now this is an area under special protection. Moreover, the young generation gets environmental education and learns to live in harmony with the nature in a natural environment. This is everyone’s success,” Viva-MTS General Manager Ralph Yirikian said.
Over the years, the Refuge expanded to reach its current 30 000 hectares, and evolved to become a space where the interconnected areas of biodiversity and habitat conservation, wildlife rescue, sustainable development, environmental education and ecotourism are apprehended with a holistic and community-centric approach. The Refuge and its region are an important part of the Caucasus biodiversity hotspot. They include southern areas of the country that form an ecological connectivity corridor for endangered wildlife in the Ararat and Vayots Dzor regions of Armenia, stretching along the border of Khosrov Forest State Nature Reserve. The Refuge is home to rare and sometimes endangered wildlife species such as the Armenian Mouflon, the Syrian Brown bear, the Bezoar goat, the Black Eurasian vulture, the Bearded vulture, the Caucasian Leopard, the Caucasian Lynx and the Armenian viper; it hosts many rare and endemic pear species, as well as some of the oldest Juniperus forests in the country.
During the event an important announcement was made by FPWC team. Recently, on September 2021 the trap cameras of CWR fixed a footage of Nove leopard, most probably a female individual. This hypothesis is reinforced by the fact that a male leopard named Neo already lives in the adjacent areas of the Khosrov Forest State Reserve, so the new leopard, Nova, probably came to accompany Neo. This is a great achievement in the preservation of Armenia’s nature.
During all these years, starting from establishment of the Refuge, FPWC was supported by its main partner in conservation and community development Viva-MTS.
The development and management of CWR was supported by many international partners as well, such as World Land Trust, US Forest Service, IUCN Netherlands and many others.
The event was also supported by “Wine Formula” LLC with “Hovaz” Armenian wines. By the way, in order to preserve the environment for future generations, the “Wine Formula” team will allocate 10% of the profit from the sale of “Hovaz” wines to the preservation of the Caucasian leopard.