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Grigory Pasko: Disturbance Factor

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They were shooting…Yesterday. In the forest. In Vladimir Oblast. A shot thundered practically right over my head. Luckily for me and for the duck flushed from the mirror-like marsh, the hunter missed.

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By the way, they were shooting for certain, not only yesterday and not only in Vladimir Oblast – the hunting season continues in Russia. The period of killing feathered creatures in the Moscow region began back on 25 July and will continue through 30 November. Then, in November, the season will open for beavers, moose, boars…hunting season continues, in essence, year round on the vast spaces of our motherland, which for now is still rich in wildlife. And this is just the legal hunting that takes place – we aren’t even discussing the poachers yet.

While we’re on the subject of moose – yesterday on MKAD beltway, they saw a group of these animals. Either they’ve got nothing to eat, or poachers had scared them…

Although I’m not a hunter myself, I can guess shooting little birds isn’t the coolest kind of hunting among bipeds with guns. To shoot a tiger or a leopard, a bear or a mountain goat – now that’s the thing. True, a cool hunt won’t always end with a photo op against the background of an animal’s carcass. We still remember, after all, how in January of this year, VIP-hunters in a helicopter suffered a crash on the Altai. As a result, four people survived and seven died, including the plenipotentiary representative of the president of Russia in the State Duma, Alexander Kosopkin. According to unofficial (still?) information, the passengers of the helicopter were conducting a hunt, shooting at animals (supposedly, mountain sheep in the Red book of endangered species) right from the air.

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They hunt not only from the air. On 15 October this year, employees of the Administration of Hunting Supervision of Primorsky Kray, in conjunction with experts of WWF Russia on the territory of Nadezhdinsky Rayon, uncovered the body of a young amur tiger. Sergey Aramilev, coordinator of the programme of the Amur branch of the WWF for the preservation of biodiversity, thinks two bullet holes in the skull of the tiger speak eloquently about how the beast had been killed during a poaching night hunt for hoofed animals. “The killing of the tiger cub,” in the opinion of Aramilev, “is a cowardly and base act.” (To which I will add: and not only of the tiger cub – either).

The shooting of wild animals on the endangered species list is possible in specific situations – for scientific objectives or for regulating the population. So does that mean all our VIP hunters – are “real” scientists?

I read that contemporary VIP hunters include no small number of governors and other famous people. For example, Pavel Gusev, Sergey Jastrzembski, Nikita Mikhalkov…once upon a time I saw a photo of former governor of Khabarovsk Kray Viktor Ishayev, in which he is imprinted on the carcass of a bear he killed.

It goes without saying that hunting in our country is not prohibited. As they say, they’ve got the right. Although in my view, there’s something primordial about this habit. But at least you can understand primordial people: they wanted to eat and without the skin of a beast it was cold and they would have died.

I can somehow imagine my colleague Pavel Gusev, who has nothing to eat. Or Nikita Sergeyevich freezing in a cold cave…

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It has already been written before me: a real man is not a hunter with machine-guns, rifles, carbines, helicopters, jeeps, sherpas and the rest. Such a man can only be a coward or a person burdened with a serious inferiority complex. You want to match strength with a bear – take a stick and a knife and go into the forest. One on one. You want to kill an antelope – go into the pampas and try and catch it with your bipedal legs.

On governor-poachers, falling in their helicopters like pears in autumn – this requires special consideration. They should in general be legislatively prohibited from hunting until their official powers are terminated. Let us imagine that some of them are truly smart people and in all senses useful for society and the guberniya. And now this hired worker crawls into a helicopter and flies to do some shooting. And then, following the well-known scheme: a shot, a crash, burials…the state suffers harm. That means the state has to prohibit this lousy hunter from appeasing his vanity. And it will save endangered species at the same time.

By statistics, the more than 120,000 licensed hunters in Moscow and the Oblast annually roam the forests and bogs with guns in order to shoot partridges, plovers and grouse to their heart’s content…according to ecologists, there are fewer and fewer birds with each passing year. First, man is settling the near-Muscovite lands with a hitherto unseen sweep. Second, the decline in agriculture has deprived feathered creatures of food. Third, the cottages in which people live year round have ruined the situation. (In the terminology of specialists, this is called the “disturbance factor”). Fourth, poachers. These types couldn’t care less about when to shoot and at whom. As long as they shoot.

Of course, there are enough disturbance factors in the business of protecting nature besides hunters. At the end of the day, the most important of these factors is the very existence of man on Planet Earth. Man in and of himself is a disturbing creature. And on top of that if he gets his hands on a gun…