Junior Rangers Programme
Preparatory phases took place in December as WWF-Armenia employees and Gnishik Protected Landscape professionals conducted competitions to determine the lucky participants of the scheme. The first visit of Ayb’s schoolchildren to Vayots Dzor – a stunning region in the South-East of Armenia, in which Gnishik is situated – was then conducted in February. The participants were divided into four teams; ecotourism, research, community and media. The teams have since operated in a number of villages across the region, throughout their monthly visits, working towards further developing the bonds within and between communities, and promoting environmental awareness, throughout Armenia.
Community team went to Khachik, Areni and Yeghegnadzor communities to participate in open discussions, sharing concerns and meaningful solutions to conservation issues within Gnishik. Accordingly, the ecotourism team consequently marked trails, installed informational signboards, allowing for a wider number of people to experience the fantastic nature that this region has to offer.
The research team acted as wildlife monitors; installing camera traps, observing and counting Bezoar goats (listed in the Red Book of Armenia as endangered) and registering footprints and other traces of a number of species present in the area.
The community team focused on the facilitation of seminars; setting up small competitions, activities and presentations about the JRP’s findings and ensuring wider community involvement.
The media team would then work on recording the activities of other groups, providing their work for exhibitions and ensuring quality content for a showcase that we hope to conduct in the near future.
Education at a young age, concerning environmental issues, is vital for the sustainability of these Protected Areas. The JRP serves to facilitate such education by bringing young people together from across Armenia, to this end. The collective sharing of opinions and findings between the various communities will serve to benefit the members of all those involved in the programme, as well as contributing to the conservation efforts currently underway within Gnishik. The teenagers, as part of the programme, will further develop their understanding of shared responsibility for environmental protection across issues such as pollution, freshwater sources and the logistics of governance.
We hope that this eco-education model can also be introduced in other Protected Areas, throughout Armenia, attracting even more young people from adjacent communities to involve themselves in the conservation of Armenian nature.
Arsen Gasparyan, WWF-Armenia’s conservation officer, stated that the feedback received from all participants, thus far, has been excellent. Providing willing individuals from Yerevan and Gnishik with the opportunity for ‘real on-ground work’ has been a great draw; ‘they gained knowledge, they gained experience and they found some new places within Armenia’. The draw of the JRP for young people from Yerevan is clear, but the ‘communication between participants’, he said, has also been fantastic. Gasparyan described it as a ‘win-win situation’ for both the schools and the Protected Areas, as the benefits of the infrastructure and other use-oriented activities is already being realised.