You have to travel far to find a place
where large wilderness areas still predominate. Kamchatka, the peninsula in
Russia’s Far East, is such a place. Kamchatka - 1.5 times the size of Germany -
impresses its visitors with the large Pacific forests, boggy taiga and clear
creeks and rivers. Volcanic activities and diverse coastlines give a special
note to the landscape of Kamchatka. Its nature is of high ecological value due to the diversity of its
species and ecosystems. 58 % of the animal and plant species living in Kamchatka
are red-listed in Russia and are considered as endangered. In 1996 UNESCO included about 4
million hectares of Kamchatka’s volcanic landscape in its network of World Heritage sites.
Kamchatka still has large wilderness areas but shadows are lingering at its
doorstep threatening this paradise. Together with state agencies and various
conservation NGOs, the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung strives to preserve this oasis
of pure nature for our planet.
Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung’s current focus is the
support of the “cluster Bystrinskii” in the Nature Park “Vulcanoes of Kamtchatka”;
with just over 1.3 Million hectares it is
the largest protected area on the peninsula. Fighting salmon poaching and
forest fires are the park’s most important challenges. The foundation organizes
a Russian-German Voluntary Service together with the nature park administration
and helps financially with individual projects focussing on nature conservation
and environmental training.
Owing to its inaccessibility and its use
as military training area, access to Kamchatka had been restricted for strangers and foreigners until the collapse of
the Soviet Union. Consequently, nature was able to flourish without significant human
impact. Since 1990, Kamchatka has been increasingly exposed to human pressure. Foreign fishery fleets
have been acquiring licences and are over-fishing the coastal zones; mineral
resource exploration and mining – which is very detrimental to the environment
– have started. In parallel, transport infrastructure has been upgraded
considerably, which eases access not only for tourists but for poachers too,
even to remote areas.
Poaching is one of the greatest problems in this region. Targets are ,among
others, different species of salmon (Oncorhynchus
gorbuscha, O. nerka, O. kisutch, O. keta), which annually migrate
upstream in the larger rivers. Tons of salmon are caught every year for red
salmon caviar. In some regions, the reduced salmon stock already affects the
bear population, for salmons are an important part of the bears’ diet in
autumn. Many of our ‘ancestors’, as the Evenes call the bear, are hunted for
trophies, legally and illegally. Bear bile is particularly popular in
Traditional Asian Medicine, where it is used as a highly valued aphrodisiac. Other
hunted and importuned species are the sable and the snow sheep.
It is rather difficult to control poaching, as the
area is huge but the number of rangers and the amount of financial support for
their work are minimal. In addition, corruption often hampers the fight against
poaching. The nature park does not even have the authorisation to arrest
poachers on its own territory. Forest fires are also a threat to Kamchatka’s nature; these fires are often caused by tourists or old vehicles.
These are mostly former military crawler vehicles that are used offroads where
paved routes are missing for transport.
Until the end of 2009 our project region Bystrinskii was an independently
managed nature park. In 2010 the naturepark was consolidated with another 3
nature parks to “nature park Vulkanoes of Kamtchatka”. The Bystrinskii region
was renamed to “cluster Bystrinskii”.
2009 the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung additionally supports young Russian-speaking
experts to take part in our voluntary programme. We would like to foster the
exchange and team work between Russian and German volunteers and to support
qualified trainees for the park. Young Russians, Ukrainians or Belorussians
with a “green” backround as biologists, ecologists or else have the chance to
get work experience in a nature park. On the other hand, for the remote park it
is difficult to find qualified employees. The young Russians stimulate
discussions about the chances of nature conservation activities which is very
important to promote the nature park.
Between 2004 and 2009 the foundation supported
a variety of activities which belong to an overall concept and were linked to
the management plan of the park and coordinated with the activities of other
organisations such as WWF, IUCN, UNDP and pro Sibiria e.V.. Our activities
included park surveillance, environmental training and eco-tourism. We helped
to acquire a 4-wheel-drive and to build up a ranger hut and a visitor centre.
In 2005 an ecological children and youth club has been founded to raise
awareness for nature conservation and to provide environmental training for
children and adults. In close cooperation with the park management, children
and young people are being encouraged to help building tracks and setting up
fixed fireplaces to prevent forest fires. The activities of the club list
excursions, nature movie presentations as well as joint events with the school of Esso
and experts from all over Kamtchatka.
Since 2010 a former volunteer, Larisa Kravcova, manages the children’s club. In
support of her work she receives a financial contribution from the
Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung and from the NGO Pacific Environment.
Since 2006 the Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung concentrates on a voluntary programme.
Young people are encouraged to work in the Bystrinskii Nature Park
for a period between 6 and 12 months to experience nature and natural
protection in a strange but beautiful landscape. They not only get to know a
foreign country and culture. They are also encouraged to develop their own
abilities to be creative and tolerant. Young Europeans also have positive
effects on the community in Esso.
They exchange experiences with the locals and are both willing to learn from
Until now the German-speaking volunteers leave many “footprints” in the park. In
the last years they added interesting exhibits, information poster and a kid´s
area to the visitor centre, as well as a slideshow presentation at the
visitor´s computer. For outdoor activities the volunteers produced info
brochures and maps of the hiking trails in three different languages, a
botanical guide and a herbarium.
German and English language courses given by the volunteers for children and
adults are very popular. Another field of activity is of course maintenance
work in the park. The volunteers help to set up trail signs, huts, toilets and
fire places. Scientific work includes inventory methods, bird watching, field
mapping, and botanical and faunistic monitoring.
Since 2008 our voluntary program is being supported by the EU programme “Youth
in Action” (YiA) . As part of this the German volunteers they take part in the
European voluntary Service (EVS). YiA aims to inspire a sense of active
citizenship, solidarity and tolerance among young Europeans and to involve them
in shaping the Union's future. It promotes mobility within and beyond the EU borders. It is
based on non-formal learning and intercultural dialogue, and it encourages the
inclusion of all young people, regardless of their educational, social or
The German contact for the EU programme is "Jugend für
So far the voluntary service enriched the lifes of every former volunteer. All
of them were engaged and inserted good ideas that were helpful for the nature
park. For the Bystrinskii Nature Park
volunteers are a great benefit. With their open-mindedness and communicative
character they increase the acceptance of the locals for nature protection. By now 14 volunteers have been working in the Nature park, mainly in the
visitors centre, the ecological youth club as well as in hut and track
building. Here you can see more of the activities: 1 2 3 4 5
Some of the already returned volunteers took part in the „European
Voluntary Service“, financially supported by the European program „Youth in
Action“. It encourages personal encounters between young people and supports
If you are interested in working as a volunteer in Kamchatka, please do not
hesitate to contact us. E-mail: info(a)m-h-s.org
Bystrinkii Nature Park (made
by the volunteers)
For other interesting information on Kamchatka and related links see
Russian, English and German]