By Tsira Gvasalia
When Georgia’s hunting season opened last month, hunters were allowed, for the first time, to train their sights on several threatened species.
The decision by the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry to permit hunting for animals on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species, commonly called the Red List, is part of Tbilisi’s efforts to promote tourism.
Some conservation groups contend the decision could be the death knell for species already under extreme strain from poachers, with even the environment minister weighing in against it. Researchers and environmentalists say there is no reliable count of how many of the threatened animals still roam the forests and mountains of Georgia.
In September, the Natural Resources Ministry proposed that hunting be allowed for several Red List species, including the brown bear, the Caucasian tur (a goat antelope), the bezoar goat, Caucasian grouse, and red deer. In an interview at the time, the ministry’s head, Alexandre Khetaguri, said Turkey, Ukraine, and Austria were already luring international hunters and it made sense for Georgia to profit from the trade as well.
Although the brown bear is not threatened globally, Georgia’s Red List (pdf), deems it endangered. The IUCN warns that even where the bears exist in large, contiguous populations, “they are sometimes hunted for sport or killed for control purposes at unsustainable rates.” The group notes that many countries lack the resources to maintain “adequate monitoring programs and sustainable management plans” for the bears.
Red deer, too, are plentiful globally, but they are considered critically endangered in Georgia, as is the bezoar goat. More....