The Society for Conservation of Wild Nature “Tchaobi” has successfully completed a Small Grants Fund (SGF) project led by botanist Izolda Matchutadze, aimed at the conservation, restoration and development of eco-tourism infrastructures within the Ramsar Site “Ispani II marshes” located in West Georgia, in the Autonomous Republic of Ajara.
The project contributed to implement the Convention's Strategic Plan 2009-2015 for the conservation and wise use of wetlands, by carrying out forest restoration and rehabilitation activities within the Ramsar site. Autochthonous tree species were planted and a nursery for ex-situ conservation was created with the participation of local communities, schools and public institutions.
Completed project activities include: building accessible tourism infrastructures such as footpaths, wooden bridges and bamboo pavilions; producing information booklets and flyers;and installing boxes with recorded bird sounds and information boards.
In order to raise awareness among the local community of the conservation of Ispani marshes and to promote their sustainable use for ecotourism, staff from the protected area and from the Department of Tourism of Ajara received training as nature tour guides. Moreover, workshops, seminars and field trips focusing on environmental education were carried out for the students of the Faculty of Tourism of Rustaveli University.
The Society for Conservation of Wild Nature “Tchaobi” also updated the draft Management Plan, including the design and management of a buffer zone around the Ramsar Site to minimize negative impacts on the natural and socio-cultural environment.
Wetlands and their wildlife are a key part of the global tourism experience. The Ramsar Convention recognizes the the continuous expansion of tourism and its potential negative impact on wetlands. However, it also recognizes that well managed tourism in and around wetlands can bring significant benefits, at site level, and at national and regional levels. Kati Wenzel from the Ramsar Secretariat visited Georgia in September 2012 and gave a presentation on this topic.
The Ramsar Secretariat congratulates The Society for Conservation of Wild Nature “Tchaobi” for developing and running this inspiring project. We are looking forward to learn about the future outcomes of the implementation of the Management Plan.
The Ramsar Small Grants Fund is intended to assist developing countries and those with economies in transition in implementing the Convention and to support the conservation and wise use of wetland resources, with a strong human and social dimension.
Report by Laura Máiz-Tomé, Assistant Advisor for Europe
Photos Copyright: Izolda Matchutadze