The Berezinski Biosphere Reserve in Belarus: Is Ecotourism a Tool to Support Conservation in the Reserve?
The Berezinski Reserve has been a protected area for the past 70 years. In 1979 it was designated an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Reserve is located 100 km north of Minsk, the capital of Belarus. It is located in the European-Siberian region of the Palearctic between the watersheds of the Black and Baltic Seas in the southern Taiga zone. It stretches over 120,000 ha. A rural population of 1500 is spread out in the buffer zone in eight small communities and in one large settlement located in the centre which hosts the administrative buildings and headquarters of the Reserve. The inhabitants live from traditional agriculture of Kolkhose type, involving cattle raising, hay making and potatoes and rye growing. The Reserve has not experienced a high level of tourist visits. School children, hunters and officials were the main visitors during the Soviet period. It was only in 1994 that the Reserve first hosted a group of naturalists from France. Berezinski Biosphere Reserve can aspire to becoming a new destination in Eastern Europe for Western naturalists. The potential is high. But the natural resources are threatened. The Reserve is under high hunting pressure and there is a sense of urgency.
KeywordsBerezinski Biosphere Reserve Belarus biosphere reserve ecotourism community international aid and assistance research exchanges
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