Saturday 27 October 2007
By Arpi Harutyunyan
The twisting road to Khosrov leads to a fourth century place where, now, modern laws ban its original purpose.
Khosrov Forest was established by King Khosrow Kotak, who reigned from 330-338. It was turned into a national preserve in 1958, prohibiting hunting and logging by law.
The Khosrov state preserve is one of the three preserves in Armenia after the Erebuni in the suburb of Yerevan and the Shikahogh in Syunik province. The three preserves together occupy 39,285 hectares of territory or 1.2 percent of Armenia’s land mass.
«Preserves occupy at least 10 percent of a given country’s territory in the whole world, but in Armenia they make only 1-1.5 percent. And though the number of reserves is much higher, they are neither managed, nor coordinated, i.e. their being reserves remains on paper alone», mentions Karen Manvelyan, Director of the World Wildlife Fund Armenian branch, whose agency tries to strengthen the regime of preserve maintenance in Armenia.
A tourism development program in Khosrov preserve was launched this July. Manvelyan says a regulation will be developed in the future to guide the tourism industry in preserves.
«Scientific and educational tourism will develop in the Khosrov [preserve] within one year. Before entering the locale people will have opportunity to get information about the place, to choose the route, and then travel by car or on horseback in accord to the chosen route», says Varantsov Barseghyan, who has been the deputy director of the preserve since 1975, recalling the work style of directors he has worked with.
King Khosrow had ordered to plant trees on the high slopes of mountains in the modern day province of Ararat to breed wild animals for royal hunting. The preserve of 29,196 hectares is rich in flora and fauna. There are about 1850 species of plants, 24 of them are considered to be endemic and 80 of them are registered in the Red Data List of Armenia.
«The Khosrov preserve is really very rich in particularly dry climate loving plants; there is a large population of elm-trees. However, Dutch Disease significantly damaged it in the recent years (the tree gets dry from inside, although this may not be seen from outside)», Karen Afrikyan forestry expert of the Armenian Forest NGO explains. He says the preserve has typical valuable juniper sparse growing forest and oak forests. «Juniper is very valuable: its resin is used even in aviation equipment, and the wood is used for furniture making. It is also has bactericide properties», says Afrikyan, mentioning the loggings have caused scarcity of food for animals, forcing many species to migrate.
This particularly refers to mouflons and Bezoar goats included in the international Red Data List. They are only two of the 283 vertebral animals inhabiting the preserve. One can also occasionally meet lynx and panther of Asia Minor.
Barseghyan does not deny many of the animal species have vanished either; neither that trees have been logged. «The wide-spread poaching occurred in the late 80s and early 90s. The number of animals halved in those years. Years will be needed to restore the loss. Unlike the previous times when animal herds were comprised of 50-60, their number today is scarcely 20», continues the deputy director.
He says, however, their number has grown a bit in the recent years due to favourable climate conditions and proper conservation. And the proper conservation has become possible owing to the budget of the preserve that makes 73 million drams (about $222,000) and the efforts of its 61 workers whose average salaries are 40-42,000 drams (about $120-130). Many of them work on a day round basis, using just 4 available means of transportation.
«State means mainly suffice for transportation expenses and salaries. But we don’t complain. Some five years ago the budget and the salaries were just the half of this. But the problem of cars is very serious. If we had at least 4-5 more, our work would be a bit easier. Can you imagine? We have to supervise this huge area, but are forced to cross it mainly by foot», explains Barseghyan pointing to the mountains and casting his glance on the numbers of cars entering the territory of the preserve. He then approaches the guard and asks about the people who entered and the contents of their cars. Getting a satisfying answer, he continues his way.