Thursday, July 01, 2010

Georgia on my mind


What do you think of when someone says 'Georgia'? The songs? The American state? The ex-Soviet state? Well, it's the latter on my mind for this post.

The other day we had a 'download' at work from one of the guys who works out in Georgia. He works with the Tusheti people and the local Government organisations and NGOs to help preserve some of the most amazing wildlife.

They have bears, wolves, jungle cats, lynx and tortoise as well as an amazing array of bird and plant-life. Gareth works particularly on the carnivores (them what has sharp teeth as detailed above). The project, funded primarily by the EU and in partnership with local NGO, NACRES, is designed to protect some amazing rich habitats near the Caucasus mountains and in the south-east.

Of course Georgia was in the news most recently because of border disputes and political 'chest puffing' (I would say willy waving but that's not very PC) that has resulted in conflict. But the Tusheti shepherds still have to take their herds of sheep from the lowlands in the winter to the mountains in the summer - and still have to feed and care from them and protect them from the carnivores that live there too.

It's a challenge - especially as the deconstruction of the USSR has meant that the support infrastructure has disappeared along with the Russians. Part of the work Gareth and the team out there are doing is to help the shepherds with veterinary care - reducing disease in dogs (so it doesn't get transferred to wildlife) and increasing herd survival rates so that loss to predators is not such a great impact. One of the things Gareth is trying to raise extra funds for is salaries for vets who can work in the mountainous and arid regions of this extraordinary landscape.

So why am I writing about it when there's perfectly good information all about it on the FFI website? (here ) Simple - the one thing that is missing from the information on the web is the passion and knowledge that individuals like Gareth share when you meet them in person. I consider myself extremely lucky to be able to hear first hand the stories of the conservation work these folks are doing all over the world.

He told us how hard the wolves are to trap, so you can't do accurate research on them, and how hunting, poaching and over-grazing are serious issues. He also had some amazing photographs (I've chosen one of his bird photographs, well, I would, wouldn't I!)

I have to say my geography has improved too!

Photo: Hawfinch, (C) Gareth Goldthorpe - check out more of his work on Flickr www.flickr.com/photos/garethan/
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