Thursday, September 16, 2010
Too often the news we gather from the mainstream media about Russia is bad news, and the humor is rather acerbic and based on dark stereotypes. So it is refreshing when we receive a bit of unqualified good news, about average people doing the hard work it takes to keep a society, and our world, spinning on its axis. Margaret Williams of the WWF reported to us on September's release of 85 Aleutian Cackling Geese into the wild:
These geese were the most recent of many generations hatched in captivity, and cared for by Dr. [Nikolai] Gerasimov and his wife Alla, who raised hundreds of these birds in a modest facility they built in the early 1990’s. Over the years they have released over 500 of the geese into the wild. On Friday, in a bittersweet journey (this was likely to be the last release), we loaded all but a few geese and flew by heli to a remote island in the Kurile Island chain to release the birds into the wild. The goal is to help them re-establish a wild population after this species was nearly wiped out by predatory foxes that the fur farmers introduced nearly 100 years ago on the Kurile and Aleutian Islands. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of many Alaskan biologists, that same species (some say it’s a sub-species) made a comeback in Alaska and was removed from the Endangered Species List.
Dr. Gerasimov began to dream about making a similar success possible in Russia. Since the late 1980’s he has worked with American and Japanese colleagues to make his dream a reality. In the ensuing decades he has received modest in-kind and financial support from Japanese and Russian donors, and people from around the world who visited his facility in Kamchatka. Over the past couple of years, WWF provided support for the helicopter to transport the birds. But mostly, it was blood, sweat and tears, and a deep love for nature that kept the Gerasimovs focused on this conservation goal for so long.
Ekarma Island, where we released the geese on Friday, is mammal-free and is absolutely wild and pristine! Steep cliffs, the lack of a natural harbor, and thick kelp forests created natural barriers against human visitors. Deep cushions of tundra vegetation, lush grasses, wildflowers and bright mountain ash shrubs surrounded us when we landed. A faint scent of sulfur wafted from fumaroles on volcanic mountaintops hidden in the mist. Ekarma is magical.
The geese will spend their winters in Japan, where hunting bans, improved wetlands and agricultural management, and growing public awareness are helping the birds to survive until the following summer, when they will return to this island Shangri-la in Russia. Each winter there have been more geese, and the last year’s count was 89. Friday was an exciting and inspiring day.
Dr. Gerasimov and his wife devoted his retirement to these birds. Sadly, Alla Gerasimova is no longer with us, but her contribution was evident as the birds took flight on Friday. It is an honor to know Dr. Gerasimov, a true conservation hero!
There is good news out there. You just need to know where to look...
[Photo courtesy Margaret Williams]
Sure, everyone knows the name Baba Yaga. But do you know where she lives? Do you know Koschey the Immortal, or Zmey Gorynych? How well do you know the spirits of the forest? Read up on these key characters of Russian fairy tales!Read More
A generation of Soviets grew up seeing the face of actor Innokenty Smoktunovsky in his varied roles, both on screen and on stage. But what was his actual life like? In this snippet, he gives a taste of the trials he underwent as a soldier fighting the Nazis.Read More
Tired of having to do Valentine's Day and Mother's Day separately? Try it the Russian way and combine them into International Women's Day! A closer look at this convenient holiday's socialist origins and not-so-socialist present form.Read More
Collectivization in the Soviet Union was a time of hunger, suffering, and massive death tolls – even as the papers proclaimed phenomenal success. One former peasant's memoirs give us a window on that terrible time.Read More
On Friday night, just steps from St. Basil's Cathedral, one of the bravest and most vocal opponents of the Kremlin was gunned down by unknown assailants. How are Russians reacting?Read More
Leviathan is not, as virtually every mainstream critic has presumed, “anti-Russian.” I watched the movie resolutely prepared to intensely dislike it. I fully believed it would shamelessly pander to an American public eager to see a film that demonized Putin and made the country seem like a hellish landscape of unsalvageable bleakness. But that was not at all the case.Read More
Free Weekly Russia File newsletter. Exclusive discounts.