The biggest problem that a person creates for the nature of the Crimean Reserves is, oddly enough, garbage. The environmental services coped with the consequences of the very heavy rains in just a month, but the workers of the Reserves and National parks, especially in the South Coast of the Crimea, have to collect all year round the mountains of various waste left behind by our “dear guests”. Andrey Borodin, Director of the Joint Directorate of the Specially Protected Natural Areas (SPNAs), the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Zapovedny Krym” (Protected Crimea), tells the EcoTourism Expert readers how to behave in the SPNAs and how to avoid a fine.
- The Crimea, especially Yalta, recently have suffered twice from heavy rains. The disaster was repelled: what damage was caused by the downpours, how were the problems due to the flood resolved, what is the situation in the area now? Are all the trails open, what is to be done in the near future?
- The heavy rains in the Yalta Gorno-Lesnoy (Mountain and Forest) State Natural Area from June 17 through 18 and from 23 through 25, caused severe floods, mudflows, landslides and rock slips, shift of rocky soil (stone and rubble) down the slopes of the Ai-Petri plateau. The fire emergency water reservoirs and fire-fighting roads were significantly damaged because more than 170 km were blocked by mudflows and fallen trees. It was not possible to use the roads at all and they required repair as soon as possible, and all-terrain special equipment was used to bring them in order. The roofs of the Vorontsovka and Ai-Petri lodges were damaged and required repair. The mudflows partly destroyed hiking tourist trails, such as the Botkinskaya, Shtangeevskaya, Taraktashskaya, Koreizskaya, Uchan Su ones, as well as the Yagodka bicycle route. The Koreizskaya trail was completely damaged in two sections, 150 m long each, so, the route was changed to open it. After the mudflow that came down to the Uchan-Su Waterfall trail, which completely blocked it, it was necessary to repair 40 m of the retaining wall and fill the road to the waterfall with rubble. At present, all the damaged hiking trails are repaired - thanks to the efforts of the staff of the Protected Area and the volunteers who took an active part.
According to the most conservative estimates, about 5.5 mn roubles will be needed to clean-up and restore the territory after the flood. This sum doesn’t include the money from extra-budgetary funds we have already invested.
- Are there many tourists now? What are the most popular trails, reserves, and parks?
- In the first half of 2021, we had 38,188 visitors (at all the sites of the Specially Protected Natural Areas, SPNAs). Considering that for the whole 2020, there were slightly more than 60,000 visitors, the increase is large. The most popular destinations are the Yalta Reserves (22,868 visitors in the first half of the year) and the Opuk Reserve (12,534 in the first half of the year). During this period, the Kazantip Reserve had only 2,786 visitors. The specialists of the Department of Educational Tourism noted that now, they see an outflow of tourists as they prefer to spend their vacations on the beaches in the popular resorts of the Peninsula - after all, the tourism’s seasonal nature is of great importance in our region.
Opuk is probably the most important site for getting to know about the history of the Peninsula. This is the site of ancient settlement Kimmerik, and the fortification monument of the Bosporus, the Citadel, catacombs and quarries. In some periods of the year, it is extremely popular thanks to blooming tulips, poppies and, of course, the unique Koyashskoye Lake. People are fascinated by the Kazantip Reserve at first glance – it has special vibes and is full of the spirit of occultism and esotericism, it is a “power place” for many people. This Crimea is completely different and is also of great interest. Probably, all our tourists visit the Yalta Reserve. I think it is attractive for its accessibility, since it is located within the city of Yalta; from the city, you can take a bus to get there and start a walking route you like. All the routes are not very tiring and do not take long, besides, it is healthy with its powerful healing effect from phytoncides in the air of coniferous forests. Well, we try not to promote the Swan Islands too much as we want this area to remain untouched as long as possible and be intended for a scientific research only.
- What’s new in the life of the Reserves - what is organized or planned in the near future, what is interesting in the wild?
- The Opuk Reserve has especially many news about the animals’ world. First, the coastline has become home to 11 Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, one of which was born this year. The dolphins are attracted to this place by its shallow water, lots of fish and, of course, the lack of people and noise. Secondly, the catacombs of the upper ridge of the Opuk Mount were filled with lesser mouse-eared bats, their number increased to 7,000. The researchers note that this is the result of the “silence regime” that was in the area for the first 4 months of this year.
We also note positive changes on the Swan Islands. Last year, 3,218 nests for 21 bird species were registered. For 2020, the number of great cormorants (+ 157%) and great white egrets (+ 22%) increased. For 2021, the accounting work is not completed, but the experts have already noted that the number of large cormorants has doubled, and the number of great black-headed gulls and Caspian terns has increased by 2.5 times. This means that the conditions for nesting these species are getting better.
As for our scientific work, I would like to tell you about our Chronicles of Nature. The main tasks of the Scientific Department are to study the natural processes going in the natural complexes of the Specially Protected Natural Areas (SPNAs) and the objects that are under the authority of the Reserve, to carry out constant monitoring of the ecosystems, as well as to develop scientific recommendations and justifications for the preservation of the unique natural complexes. The results of the work carried out during the year are recorded in the Chronicles of Nature. In fact, the Chronicles of Nature are an annual scientific report containing the research papers and data obtained during short- and long-term monitoring of the natural ecosystems. These are the results of many years of the scientific work on the SPNA’s issues.
Just recently, the regional institution that previously carried out the management of this SPNA, gave us all the Chronicles of Nature for the Yalta Reserve. This is a significant event for us, since there will be no “gap” in the long-term monitoring data, and the Scientific Department can continue to rely on the research data of the past years to continue its scientific activities and expand their research work in both previously selected research programmes and in completely new ones.
The Chronicles of Nature for the Yalta Reserve have been continuously conducted since 1979 and contain the research data obtained by the researchers of the Reserve and by the third-party scientific institutions. For example, the scientists from the Nikitsky Botanical Garden - the National Scientific Centre, as well as the Crimean Federal University named after V. I. Vernadsky and the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas named after A. O. Kovalevsky.
- How to get to the Crimea’s Reserves without paying a fine? How much does a visit cost?
- The cost of visiting ecological educational routes in the Crimea’s Reserves is still 150 roubles. The fine for visiting a Specially Protected Natural Area without a special permit costs at least 20 times more.
We tried to simplify the procedure for obtaining a permit for both tourists and local residents. For the latter, there is a privilege and they can visit the Crimea’s Reserves free of charge provided that a document confirming their registration in the Crimea is attached to the permit. Everyone else can also pay for visiting any Reserve online on the Reserve’s website. “Everything can be done electronically through our Reserve’s website. You should choose a route. If you are a Crimean, respectively, you receive a benefit, there is also a list of people who can enjoy a free visit. You should attach a document that confirms that you are a resident of Crimea. The application is considered for 10-15 minutes, and you receive a ready-made permit with a QR code to your e-mail address, which you do not even need to print out, it is enough to have it on your device. When you visit the Reserve, its employee asks you to present the visit permit.
Due to the “sanctions “, there may be failures in the Internet operation in the Crimea, but the Reserve is constantly working on these problems, the director of the Crimea’s Reserves assures. However, the lack of permit when visiting the Protected Areas of federal significance is a violation of the law, which entails a fine. “A visit without a permit shall result in an administrative fine in the amount of 3,000 to 4,000 roubles for an individual person. For an official person, of course, it makes tens of thousands of roubles, and for a legal entity, a fine is 300,000 roubles. Therefore, I would like to advise our visitors - including the travel companies, which do not consider it necessary - to formalize legal relations with us. We want to formalize legal relations with the business community and with people who provide tourism services,” Borodin tells. The paid visits to the Crimean Nature Reserves were officially introduced in February this year. For residents of the Crimean Peninsula, the visit remains free, but a permit must still be obtained.
- How is the volunteer movement organized in the “Zapovedny Krym”, what news is in this area?
- We have been working closely with volunteers for over a year. Most of them are local residents, but quite a few letters come from the mainland, from different regions of Russia. The main core consists of 40-50 Crimean volunteers who regularly participate in our events. In 2020, 27 environmental campaigns were held in our areas, in which 916 people took part. In the first six months of 2021, 13 campaigns were held with the participation of 536 volunteers. Last time, over 100 people gathered to clean the Opuk coast. We have a very active response, we can even say that we have enough people to do the work, but we are always glad to have new like-minded people; to get into the team, you need to fill in a questionnaire on our website.
In September, we will take part in an eco-volunteer school project to be held by the Youth Club of the Russian Geographical Society. Its participants will take part in an educational programme, and together with our employees, they will help to improve the state of the SPNAs and have some environmental education.
- What is the most difficult man-made problem that the nature of the Crimea’s Reserves faces?
- Probably, this concerns exclusively the Black Sea region, which has a large number of visitors. Garbage is the problem. I joke that soon, we will turn into an institution that cleans the nature all the time and not the one that protects it. We arrange subbotniks (voluntary clean-up work on Saturdays) almost every week now, we ourselves take part in cleaning-up, and the volunteers help us a lot. Even the environmental prosecutor’s office took part in the volunteer clean-up work.
We have now purchased a huge number of trash bins and containers that we will put in the Reserves. But we have noticed such a tendency: as soon as we put a trash can, in half an hour, everything is littered around. When we remove it, it becomes clean. I do not understand the logic: there is a trash can - there is garbage around. No trash can - the place is clean. But we came to the conclusion that we need a special unit to do this work.
Therefore, starting next year, a separate subdivision will be set up in the “Zapovedny Krym”, which will deal exclusively with cleaning-up the Reserves’ area. The Reserves will not use the regional operator’s services. There is no healthy competition in Yalta, as there is only one company in this business, which allows it to unreasonably, in our opinion, raises its prices too high. We calculated and realized that it is more profitable for us to do this work on our own. In general, by the way, if we turn to foreign experience, it shows that environmental institutions, as a rule, do this work by themselves. In the Yellowstone Park, if I’m not mistaken, there are about 420 toilets on site, and a separate team keeps them in order. Therefore, in the case of the Yalta Nature Reserve, we intend to follow this way.