Kuyucuk is discovering its ecologic wealth

01 Aug 2008

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Although the Kuyucuk Lake in Kars, Eastern Anatolia is under protection, there are still traces of poaching, degradation of riperian flora due to overgrazing, reed cutting by the villagers and leakage of organic substances into the lake from nearby agricultural areas.

New Horizons - Through the support of BTC/UNDP Small Investments Fund, the Yer Gök Anadolu Association (YEGA) is aiming to reverse this with the “Developing Eco-Tourism Possibilities in Kars Kuyucuk Lake” project.

The Kuyucuk Lake is the most important wetland in Kars and also holds the status of being an International Important Natural Region and Protection of Wildlife Region. In this context, the project aims to introduce the natural riches of the Kuyucuk Lake and its neighbouring villages in national and international platforms thus expanding sustainable eco-tourism activities, to create local ownership from the income and publicity brought by these activities and to protect the lake, its birds, surrounding flora and other wildlife with the cooperation of the local people and the local administration.

Although the Kuyucuk Lake region has patches of reeds, the flora of the shoreline is poor and grains and animal feed plants are being cultivated around the lake. However the rich bird community living in the region particularly the rubby shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea) and the endangered white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) make the Kuyucuk region a large potential for eco-tourism. This region houses ten thousands of birds of at least 108 species. Dr. Sean Anderson from the California State University who carried out chemical measurements in the lake’s water in spring 2006 and 2007 stated that this wetland was very hope-inspiring for developing biodiversity and that the region was an excellent candidate for ecologic restoration.

In the context of the project, awareness is being raised among local people in order to make good use of the income brought by the lake’s worldwide eco-tourism potential and its bird community and village-based sustainable tourism activities are being planned. In this context, evaluation meetings were held with villagers and the date and content of various activities were determined, students of Kafkas University Department of Biology conducted ethno-botany surveys, scientific experiments were conducted on the impacts of animal grazing, bird observations were done every day starting from April and 155 bird species were encountered, film for children and adults were shown, a walking route for bird observing was identified, a visitor centre 100 metres away from the lake was established and accomodation and nourishment opportunities were established for the tourists especially with the participation of women.  In the framework of communications and information works, the project was introduced by articles published at the national and international level and by internet (www.kuyucuk.org) (Turkish) and meetings were organized with the governor and local people to identify an eco-tourism strategy in the region.

In the context of the project that will end in October 2008, a bird visitor centre will also start giving service, booklets and calendars will be published, trainings will be provided for children and local people and a Kuyucuk Bird Observation Festival will be organized on 2-5 October 2005. The local people will play an important role on the long-term protection of the lake since they will gain consciousness on the worldwide importance of the lake and earn income from nature-lovers who visit the lake.

Dr. Çağan Şekercioğlu who is the coordinator of the project as well as the founding member of the Yer Gök Anadolu Association, received the Whitley Golden Nature Award in England for this project. Şekercioğlu is an ecologist, ornitologist, eco-tourism specialist and a nature photographer.

For more information on the Yer Gök Anadolu Association, please visit http://yergokanadolu.org/iletisim.html