INTERNATIONALER TAG DER BIODIVERSTÄT 2010
 

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Russia: Snake encounters in leopard's land

Announcement

Action Day in Kedrovaya Pad

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Announcement

Original announcement of the event on this website (April 2010)


For the GEO article in Russian language, please go to the downloads section.


Action Day in Kedrovaya Pad

The calm was over when the first snake appeared. ‘Oh my God’, someone cries out across the field where some two dozen students are crawling through the grass. The message spreads in a matter of seconds: ‘Snake, snake’! A friendly lady who a moment ago was gazing at a buttercup (Ranunculus) in her hand calms everyone with her reassuring voice: Keep cool, it isn’t dangerous! It is poisonous but not particularly dangerous. It’s not a viper! Keep calm!’


The brave expert is Nadezhda Kristoforova, 70, professor of biology at the University of Vladivostok. It is through her initiative that a Chair in environmental studies was created at the university. She is one of 50 participants in the first Russian Biodiversity Day on 21 May 2010 in a nature conservation area in Russia’s Far Eastern province. It is miles from Moscow – a nine-hour flight to Vladivostok followed by a 200-kilometre car journey.


Along with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) GEO Russia chose this conservation area for the Biodiversity Action Day. Kedrovaya Pad isn’t just one of Russia’s oldest nature conservation areas, it’s also one of its richest in plant and animal life.


The terrain was designated a conservation area as far back as 1916 before the Communists came to power. It is a narrow, 60-kilometre stretch of forest between the Japanese sea and the border with China; in the south the area has a border with North Korea. It is the only place on earth that is home to the Amur leopard Panthera pardus orientalis. Exactly 37 leopards of this subspecies have been recorded by scientists, 28 males and 9 females, with only 6 of them of reproductive age.


More than 60 plant species in this area have protected status in the so-called Russian ‘Red Book’. Along with the North Caucasus, the Far Eastern region of Russia has the country's greatest biodiversity. However, in contrast to the North Caucasus, the Far Eastern region is less well known – not just because of the long flights. Until the beginning of the 1990s, Vladivostok was a military port – a so-called ‘closed city’. Neither Russians nor foreigners could travel freely in to the region, let alone environmental tourists.


During GEO's Action Day, fifty participants made a species inventory on a 400-square-metre area of forest – plants, insects and four different species of snake. Most of the participants were students from the State University of the Far East, but they also included WWF experts, representatives of a local environmental foundation, 10 journalists and even the First Secretary from the American Embassy in Moscow. They didn’t see the rare leopard but hidden cameras with delayed shutter releases mounted by the WWF experts took pictures of the predatory cats by night.


All in all "it was celebration for friends of fresh air and an interesting life" claimed a local paper the next day.


Indeed, Russia’s first Biodiversity Day was about more than taking a species inventory. It inspired some participants to art – a dozen school children from a neighbouring village performed a play with the theme ‘The Human Threat to the Leopard’. And a local TV-Reporter was moved to an "act of journalistic heroism" albeit with considerable will power. She made her report in front of the camera while holding a snake. "It isn’t snakes people have to fight but their own fear of wild nature," she said, seeming quite nervous as she spoke.


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Russia_Biodiversity_October_2010.pdf

EO coverage of Biodiversity Action Day in Kedrowaya Pad and the world (GEO Russia, October 2010, in Russian)

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Photos: Tatiana Grozetskaya, Marina Sklyarova