Violations: Articles 26 and 27 of Belarus' Specially Protected Wilderness Territories and Sites Act; Article 55 and 63 of the Forest Code of the Republic of Belarus; the environmental balance within the protected forest; damaging the biological diversity, and no-purpose use of the protected territory.
Events, facts, documents and evidence: In the course of history Belovezhskaya Pushcha provided hunting serves for kings and other high-ranking persons who possessed it. In the modern history, in 1957, the State Reserve "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" has specially been reorganized into a State Protected Game Ground for this purpose. The Ground kept this status till 1991. During last 18 years, already functioning as a national park, the hunting management and the hunting service did not lose their positions. The contingent of those who provide the hunting has only been changed. Crowned heads and leaders of the state or the communist party were earlier under this service there, while businessmen and other rich hunters, and only occasionally high-ranking officials are now. Earlier the purpose of this kind of hunting was basically to satisfy hunting whims of high-ranking persons, while now all is much easier - to earn money as much as possible, preferably hard currency. In comparison with the last purpose, hunting whims of the officials are now served in a tiny scale and very secretly.
Doing it, the fact that the problem of reduction of a high number of wild ungulates is dramatic already for almost twenty years is ignored. The ungulates by consuming destroy the young generation of the Pushcha's forest, while the given problem is actually out of the management in practice until now. The hunting management and commercial hunting cover all the territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, with the exception of the Wilderness Protection Zone. However, information from local residents testifies that the strictly protected zone is sometimes used for the hunting purpose.
In the late 1990's the Shereshevskoe forest area (13.3 thousand ha) of the Pruzhany district became a part of the national park and the Shereshevskoe forest and game ground enterprise was created. Its basic purpose is to provide the hunting management of the trophy course and the intensive economy. For this purpose a hunting enclosure to follow a "ranch" model in the area of 3.5 thousand hectares has been constructed.
In 2007, the administration of the national park has decided to continue this line of practice and has started the construction of one more hunting enclosure - this time already in the most old-aged forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, within the territory with a high nature protection status. Almost 3.5 thousand hectares of the area, mainly of the valuable old-aged forest (that's the serious infringement of the nature protection law), has been withdrawn from the territory of the Pashukovskoe forest area situated at the southern part of the national park. This territory has been enclosed with a double (concrete and wooden) fence. That means it has been isolated from the Belovezhskaya Pushcha's forests. The fence consists of concrete slabs of the size 2 to 4 meters which form the concrete monolith-wall. The length of this "wall" along the perimeter makes about 20 kilometers (!). The infrastructure necessary for the keeping, breeding and hunting for wild ungulates has been created inside of the "wall".
Some local small villages and farmsteads where pensioners live have got inside of the enclosure. In particular, they are the villages of Glubokiy Kut, Repishche, Elovy Grud and Pavliukovshchina. According to stories of the relatives, the access to get there is now limited and the property rights are broken (a rule of sale and purchase of private houses only with the permission of the national park's administration has been introduced into practice and it ys quite problematic to obtain this sanction).
The public is still in the dark about whether the ecological examination of the given project has been made and all sanctions from the nature protection bodies necessary for construction of the hunting enclosure have been received, and thus the law has been observed.
Our information: When creating this enclosure, the Belarus' Specially Protected Wilderness Territories and Sites Act has seriously been infringed; in particular, Articles 26 and 27, as well as Regulation on the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". According to these documents, 11 main tasks have the higher priority for the state nature protection establishment which provide the management of the national park. First two of them are of the most importance:
-- to preserve the unique ecosystems and objects, that are characteristic and etalon within the Belovezhskaya Pushcha complex, in their natural condition, and a biological and landscape diversity within the territory of the national park;
-- to provide nature protection management in the national park, and to guarantee the observance of the established rules and regulations for protection and use of the national park.
Within the territory of the national park, any activities which can harm natural complexes and objects and contradict the purposes and goals of the national park are forbidden. That includes:
-- the activity causing violations of the environment and life conditions for flora and fauna.
The entire territory of the Pushcha has been divided into four functional zones: Wilderness Protection Zone (Core zone), Regulated Nature Zone, Regulated Recreational Use Zone and Economic Activity Zone. In all zones the level of protection and nature use varies and is defined by the national law and Regulation on the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha". The area in which the hunting enclosure has been created, belongs to the Regulated Nature Zone (the second nature protection level). This Zone serves as a site for study, preservation and restoration of ecosystems that are characteristic within the Belovezhskaya Pushcha complex, as well as for reproduction and rational use of natural resources. All activities within this Zone should provide optimal conditions for sustainable development of natural communities, while scientifically-oriented nature conservation arrangements are being implemented. Within this zone it is allowed to execute the following activities: scientific research, monitoring, activities aimed at restoration of disturbed natural complexes and the reproduction of natural resources, measures for prevention of fire, sani-tary woodcutting, forest maintenance, clearing of dead wood for forest sanitation and affor-estation in order to restore primary forest stands, protection of the forest against vermin and diseases (basically by biological methods), elimination of animals in order to regulate the number of their populations and for the purpose of selection, artificial feeding of wild animals in exceptionally unfavorable seasons, veterinarian, prophylactic and biotechnical measures applied to wild animals, restricted ecotourism, haymaking, harvesting of berries and mushrooms, cattle pasturage, amateur fishing as well as several other uses serving the needs of the National Park and its employees on specially selected sites. Natural resources are being exploited in limited quantities. Ecotourism is allowed under guidance of guides employed by the National Park.
The fourth zone (with the fourth nature protection level) - the Economic Activity Zone which is located on the outskirts of Belovezhskaya Pushcha - is only appropriate to creation of game grounds and hunting enclosures. This zone, according to the law, can good serve the purpose of the intensive hunting management. (To simplify the consideration of the problem, we shall omit the issues that the hunting economy and a national park conception are the incompatible things from the point of view of the classical national park's concept.) In our case the hunting enclosure would be built in the Economic Activity Zone, not in the Regulated Nature Zone. It's clear without explanations that the biodiversity and the old-aged forest incorporated into the enclosed area will suffer very much and will get irreparable harm. And it is not to mention about preservation of natural processes intact.
Scientific researches carried out in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in 1970's to 1990's have unequivocally proved that the excessive number of wild ungulates has a negative effect upon all components of the forest ecosystem (trees, bushes, grass vegetation, birds, invertebrates), and causes changes in the composition and structure of flora, fauna and living communities. In short, a deep transformation and violation of the natural development and natural processes occurs in a forest ecosystem from which rare and endangered species suffer most of all. The primeval forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha which is under a strong pressure of wild ungulates for many years is gradually changed, then degrades and collapses. That means the forest is not simply in the progress to lose its primordial state but is replaced with other type of plant communities.
Nevertheless, the administration of the national park has ignored the negative factors specified above and has infringed the zone regulations' principle, and actually has illegally captured the big territory for construction of the hunting enclosure in the zone with the second nature protection level / status, instead of making it in the fourth one.
The area which is now under the hunting enclosure, keeps the nice, old forest with a very rich flora and fauna (biodiversity). Exactly due to this feature the Bialowieza Primeval Forest is considered very valuable all over the world as one of the natural wonders and a World Natural Heritage Site of Mankind. A part of the confined territory has the middle-aged forest including the post-war artificial afforestation, while another part covers the Lesnaya River's floodplain.
The shots below show such the nice, old- and meddle-aged forests which are now within the borders of the hunting enclosure.
|(Old-aged forests in the area of the enclosure; May 4, 2008)|
|(Old-aged forests in the area of the enclosure; June 8, 2007)|
|(Old-aged forests in the area of the enclosure;
August 19, 2008)
|(Meddle-aged forests in the area of the enclosure; June 8, 2007)|
The pictures below show the beginning of construction of the concrete fence for the future hunting enclosure. Concrete slabs for the fence are stored close to the house of the today's director general of the National Park "Belovezhskaya Pushcha" in the village Podbelskie Ogorodniki.
|(Concrete slabs stored close to the director's house; February 25, 2007)|
A single-row wooden, concrete and metal-mesh fence when works on construction only started is shown here.
|(The fence under construction; February 25, 2007)|
|(The fence under construction; June 8, 2007)|
|(The fence under construction; 1 - 3 - March 2008, 2, 3 and 4 - May 4, 2008)|
Many trees were cut down to execute the enclosure construction's project.
|(Cut down trees; June 8, 2007)|
It leaves the impression that a bulldozer sometimes has been used for "the struggle" against the forest.
|(The thrown out trees; March of 2008)|
These are some posts marking the corner of the forest compartments which are now "under occupation" of the enclosure.
|(Compartment post; August 19, 2008)|
Below: that's the view of the hunting enclosure already constructed inside of the most elite (the best and the most valuable) forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha!
|(The hunting enclosure already constructed; August 19, 2008)|
These photos demonstrate the most valuable forest of Belovezhskaya Pushcha which is a home for lots of giant trees. This forest has fallen within the area of the hunting enclose. From this point its future destiny is the slow degradation and the gradual destruction.
|(The old forest against a background of the hunting enclosure; August 19, 2008)|
|(Birch trees against a background of the hunting enclosure; June 8, 2007)|
Huge living trees on the fence line have ruthlessly been cut down.
|(Old trees cut down; August 19, 2008)|
The photos below give the scale and comparison - a man against a background of the fence and giant trees.
|(A man against a background of the fence and giant trees; August 19, 2008)|
These pictures show hunting towers for shooting of wild animals and traps, as well as victims for fans of murder.
|(A hunting tower and a trap; May 4, 2008)|
|(Roe deer and wild boars; May 4, 2008)|
The photos below show the concrete fence, such an alien element in the form of a white tape which fences off Belovezhskaya Pushcha from inundated landscapes of the Lesnaya River and forms "a ghetto", some sort of a concentration camp - a place of death for wild animals within the territory of the national park.
|(The concrete fence; November 15, 2008)|
Thus, the facts and materials mentioned above demonstrate that the big territory of the best old-aged forest has actually been seized and torn away from the natural complex of Belovezhskaya Pushcha as a single whole and has been transformed into the closed zone for the commercial, hunting purposes. The administration of the national park does not worry about the fact that it will put an enormous harm for this territory of Bialowieza Primeval Forest, let alone the unscientific background and illegality of the given act. By the way, it would be desirable to pay attention that a big sum of the budgetary funds have been spent for creation of the hunting enclosure and a considerable amount of high-ranking officials took part in this reckless project.
The example of this unscientific and adventurous project once again evidently shows to every one that, being in conditions of the hard administrative regime and secrecy close for the public control, the administration of the national park seriously break the law on the territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha and follows the policy of tyranny and arbitrariness concerning the Sacred wild nature of the Bialowieza Primeval Forest.