Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Terney, Tiger Day and Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik (Sept 20-27)

At the end of September I finally made a trip to the largest federal-level nature reserve in the Primorsky Region, Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik. Founded in 1935, it is one of the oldest nature reserves in all of Russia, and it is also one of only 8 UNESCO World Heritage nature sites in Russia. Sikhote-Alinsky Zapovednik is best known for the endangered Amur tiger: the reserve is estimated to be home to 30-40 of them. Since 1992 the reserve has been working with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on a project to radio-collar and track tigers in the zapovednik. Unfortunately my trip was much too short, and I didn't see even any tiger tracks. However, WCS did fit a tigress with a new radio collar just last week, on October 8. Pretty amazing.

The zapovednik's headquarters are located in the little village of Ternei, on the Pacific coast and near the border of the reserve, a 10-hour (minimum) drive north from Vladivostok. I stayed in Ternei at WCS's research center, which was really nice. Ternei is a town of about 4000, and at this time of year, with the wonderful fall weather, it seems something close to paradise. These first two pictures are views of Ternei.

While I was in Ternei 4 scientists from the zapovednik and an American graduate student were doing field work to test a model that should predict the composition of forests in the area. They let me come out to two of their field sites with them, which was great. If the model accurately describes the forests in the zapovednik now -- which is what they're trying to test -- then it may be a good predictor of how forest composition here might change in the future (due to factors such as climate change, etc.). In this picture Nancy is explaining a technique to Lena.

Overall the forests in the Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik are very unique -- truly one of a kind today, as similar forests have already been lost (i.e., logged) all around the rest of the world. Here Misha is measuring tree height in a secondary forest.

Sveta is measuring diameter.

We worked in 30-m diameter circular plots (counting trees and species, measuring diameter, height, etc.), and we measured off sectors in each circle using measuring tape.

Misha is measuring diameter, and Galina is recording. Misha, Lena, Galina and Sveta were just wonderful. Much like the science staff at Khingansky Zapovednik, they are quite literally too nice for words. Misha, Galina and Sveta have all been working together at Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik for more than 20 years -- so they are also quite the source of information.

An old cabin at an old ranger station near one of the reserve's research sites. This reminded me of something like Shenandoah. We stoked the stove to make tea.

This is the Pacific Coast in the zapovednik.

More coastline.

There are literally dozens of seals lounging on these rocks. Sveta counted over 200. This part of the ocean is also part of the reserve.

Mmmm...mushrooms. Mushrooms and mushroom-hunting are a very important (and delicious) part of Russian culture, and September is mushroom season out here. But these mushrooms, although edible, were in the zapovednik, so you can't pick them.

I was also lucky to be in Ternei on Tiger Day. This holiday is celebrated throughout the Primorsky Region in September, in a number of different towns and cities. It started in Vladivostok back in 2000. The main and original sponsor is an environmental organization in Vladivostok, although a number of groups are always involved in planning. In Ternei the participants included WCS, Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik, a local environmental club, Uragus, local schools in the Ternei District and more. The holiday started inside with a number of performances (dances, skits, etc. -- not all tiger-related), and then there was a parade around town.

At the parade. Each group (club, school, NGO, etc.) had its own banner and its own cheer about tigers.

This is Volodya the Tiger. He's the hero of the day.

One thing about the Far East is that there are amazingly beautiful and pristine areas, like Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik, right next to areas of near environmental disaster. This is a mine in the town of Dalnegorsk, not far south of Ternei. The mine is no longer operating, it seems -- or at least ore is not being trucked out of town anymore -- but a whole lot of decaying Soviet-era equipment and crumbling factories have been left behind here, and it's hard to imagine it being cleaned up soon.

Environmental news stand in Terney.

Chickens! This picture is for you, Mom. Well, and for Dad and Dan. There were plenty of chickens on the side of the road in Terney.

1 comment:

Michael Joseph said...

Ha Ha Very funny
I don't think I will ever live down the chicken comment
I'm using your dad's account

Beautiful pictures