Press release of the Project Group "Belovezhskaya Pushcha - 21st Century"

Announcement on the beginning of the Public information campaign "Pseudo-ecological tourism and education in Belovezhskaya Pushcha - what do you think about it?"

devoted to problems of ecological education and tourism in the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha".

Over the last years the administration of Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park actively developed tourism on a background of incessant public scandals and unmasking related to infringements of legislation on nature protection and large-scale fellings of the reserved relic wood of Belovezhskaya Pushcha on a poor scientific base. For these purposes the government allocated significant finances and equipment. An overhaul of basic infrastructure was conducted, service was improved and a residence of Grandfather Frost was built in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. All this, plus permanent advertising in central mass medias and some governmental decisions to limit the number of children staying abroad, contributed to a considerable increase in the number of visitors coming to the National Park. In this way the Belarusian state pursued perspective politics and created a kind of a tourism model in Belovezhskaya Pushcha which should serve as an example in other regions and as a tourist card for Belarus.

As it seems one should be glad of such events and evolutions because, surely, development of tourism needs to become a priority in the course to make progress in the region of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and it should replace a fast consumption of natural resources of reserved wood in the future, which is the practice until today. Nevertheless, events of the last months make a basis to doubt the governmental planned success. It turned out that advertising and external luster of the repaired buildings and show-windows hide a "facade for show", a non-professional level, weakness, and it frequently functions simply as a pot-boiler of how the eco-tourism activity was organized. First of all, it concerns ecological education in the National Park.

In particular, ecologists and naturalists from the newspaper "World of Animals" (city of Gomel) listed defects of tourism and nature protection spheres in Belovezhskaya Pushcha after an excursion tour.

  1. The Museum of Nature features poor conditions. The quality of its exhibited items is often unsatisfactory. Information service about the expositions is absent.
  2. The enclosures in which wild animals live do not match European standards.
  3. Large-scale fellings of trees in the reserved wood and storage of felled trees everywhere along tourist routes turn the reserved forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha – a landscape of typical wild primeval wood – into a park-like urban zone with areas of thin trees and numerous stumps, present all along the route of tourist excursions. Popular methods of commercial timber enterprise areas are adopted and cause destruction of reserved wood and the annihilation of the prevailing wild natural character in the Park. Protective measures against pest and vermin insects are conducted, while biological methods are avoided.
  4. Damage to the forest floor by fire along tourist routes. Burning of wood remnants puts additional damage to the reserved wood and its biodiversity, and make the view of the reserved wood along the routes visited by tourists unattractive. This is done in spite of the fact that conservation or a maximized restriction of burning wood residuals completely matches the purposes and objectives of the statute of the National Park and allows the reserved wood, the soil humus and many small animals to survive.
  5. Hydro-engineering works are realized within the protected territory without appropriate ecological examination and with a lack of discussions about these projects with publicly participating environmentalists.

In their letter addressed to the Presidential Administration the ecologists and naturalists from Gomel concluded that protection of the reserved wood, tourism management and ecological education are currently unsatisfactory in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. This conclusion is drawn in despite of the fact that Belovezhskaya Pushcha is under proper protection of the government which, as it is permanently emphasizes in statements and publications of rank-various officials, intently draws attention to challenges of nature protection, tourism development and the ecological education of the people. Activities which would be hard to characterize as nature protection provided in an ecological way are in progress in the National Park.

The major reason of the ecological disaster in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, according to the ecologists from Gomel, is the lack of a Strategy and National Program aimed at preservation and management of the forest. Therefore a logical question is raised in the letter – when will such a Strategy and Program be developed in the country, who will elaborate it and which party will make the ecological examination? In other words, which party will bear the responsibility for its success or failure?

From our side we specify the defects as follows:

  1. A professional training program for guides is absent or neglected in the National Park. This ultimately leads to an insufficient professional level of the guides, but also of the administration responsible for development of tourism.
  2. The excursion service weakly focuses on ecological education and more on entertaining tourists with jokes, cock-and-bull stories and matters which are off topic. Over the last years transmitting the idea to protect wild nature and to reserve the wood of Belovezhskaya Pushcha has encountered fierce competition with pleasing visitors by a fairy tale about the Belarusian Grandfather Frost. The recently built residence of Grandfather Frost has become the main "point of attraction" of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, instead of the reserved relic forest. Accordingly, the basic flow of tourists and excursions are bound up with this whole year round entertainment show, while basic ecological and educational objectives of the National Park have been put on a back burner.
  3. The National Park has monopolized the process of arranging excursions. The number of guides, the list of excursion services and the opportunities for ecological education are extremely limited. On the Polish side of Bialowieza Forest a different prospect of excursions is functioning for a long time. Tourist agencies and individual guides take more initiative there, while the National Park only supervises and controls the process.
  4. Eco-educational literature for tourists including about Belovezhskaya Pushcha is almost absent in the National Park.
  5. The Museum of Nature has no a scientific base, as there are no museum funds, scientific documents nor methodical instructions on how to realize excursions. Therefore the guides can not and are not helped by the administration. They are compelled to be limited to self-education, while most of them do not have a biological education. As a result, most of the guides are not well enough ecologically skilled and have a deficit in understanding the science of wildlife and the concept of wild nature. The administration of the National Park has poor ecological knowledge at the same time. It is interested only in obtaining maximized financial profit, which is partially done by a dint of bringing essential damage to the reserved relic wood of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

All facts mentioned above testify to the fact that tourism and ecological education currently suffer serious lacks and deficits in "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park. Tourism and ecological education provided currently in the way described above qualitatively are not better than preservation of the reserved wood of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

However, the official answers from the top bodies do not draw any basic attention to the above described lacks and problems. They continue to mention "harmful bark beetles and windstorms". Moreover, these answers, as before, avoid and hush up numerous cases of infringements of the legislation of nature protection, the unsatisfactory quality of the forest management – which contradicts principles and norms of sciences of wildlife and ecology –, poor common management, inefficiency, waist of finances allotted by the government, etcetera. Allocation of financial support to "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park has been planned again, in stead of developing a Strategy and Program aimed at the preservation and management of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

This testifies a lack of understanding of Belarusian officials that the basic problem of Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a systematic crisis (!) in the management of this institution of nature protection! In truth the activities of the National Park have generally become non-professional, adventurous and irresponsible over the last years. Surely it will not be money nor facades that will change this situation of crisis, which has grown and is growing from the viciousness of the management system adopted in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and from the "secrecy" and the closed regime of this National Park, which blocks public control.


  1. Viewing the deadlock of the present situation,
  2. Understanding the true reasons of unsatisfactory conditions, poor management of this institution of nature protection, and inadequate ecological education and tourism in the National Park,
  3. Being aware of ways to find an exit from the lingering crisis and
  4. Offering possibilities to the public to pay more attention to the problems of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, and to take off the regime of secrecy and the facade veil from the National Park
we initiate the Public information campaign "Pseudo-ecological tourism and education in Belovezhskaya Pushcha - what do you think about it?". We ask all people who worry or concern about this unique site of wild reserved nature to put your opinion and offers regarding the problems raised above on the FORUM of the Website "Belovezhskaya Pushcha - 21 Century" – ( Further, we will inform the public on results of this discussion and we will prepare a conclusion to acquaint the governmental bodies with a wide public opinion on the problems of preservation and management of Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

We are sure that only taking off the secrecy which covers the activities of the administration of "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park and involving the public into the decision making process concerning important problems in the management of Belovezhskaya Pushcha can overcome the present crisis situation and may guarantee the preservation of this reserved area – Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site – for ours descendents. We are sure that only a transformation of the "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" National Park into a Park for the NATION – instead of a Park for the administration (a small group of the high-ranked officials) – matches the interests of Belarus, the Belarusian people and the worldwide community.

Heorhi Kazulka
Philosophy Doctor of Biology
Coordinator of the Project "Belovezhskaya Pushcha - 21st Century"
October 18, 2005

tel. (01631) 56-577 (home)
address: Kamenyuki village, Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Kamenetz district, Brest region, Belarus 225063

Additional information on the problem of ecological tourism and education in Belovezhskaya Pushcha:


1. Belovezhskaya Pushcha: a way to scientific and moral devastation Alexander SAVARIN, «Mir Zhivotnyh» (Gomel), No 8, August 2005 (

2. Conclusions after a trip to Belovezhskaya Pushcha and responses of the participants of excursion. Natalia SLYADNEVA, «Mir Zhivotnyh» (Gomel), No 8, August 2005 (

3. Wild nature and tourism. Are they combined in Belovezhskaya Pushcha? Heorhi Kazulka, «Brestskiy Kurier», No 33, August 11, 2005 (


1. Open Letter to the Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus on tourism development in Belovezhskaya Pushcha" written by Gomel ecologists and readers of the newspaper "Mir Zhivotnyh" (Gomel), No 9, September 10, 2005 (


1. National Park shows its anti-ecological ways to tourists, 2004 (

2. The residence of Santa Clause: the violation of legislation and ecology-planning (

3. Empty ecological paths (

4. Tourist complex and the destruction of ancient traditions of Belovezhskaya Pushcha (2001 - 2003) (

5. Making forest look "good" or disappearance of rare plants, 2004 (

Departmental responses:

1. Answer from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment protection of the Republic of Belarus to the letter of the editor team of the newspaper "World of Animals". October 06, 2005 (

2. Answer from the Property Management Department of the President of the Republic of Belarus to the letter of the editor team of the newspaper "World of Animals". October 31, 2005 (