The scientific community is worried:

the reserve "Nalibokskiy" is at risk to be turned into a hunting ground

Last week, on Facebook there was appeared the information with the reference to the article in the Belarusian forest newspaper, authored by M. Tolochko. This article titled "Vasily Gurkov: hunters are the avant-garde of belarusian ecologists" has caused astonishment in the society. How it is permissible for a specially protected natural territory (SPNT) to be supervised by a hunter with more than a dozen of killed animals on account? ECOETIKA.BY dealt with the situation. We immediately decided to appeal to the Belarusian scientists for the explanation of the information. And for that we contacted the specialists of the Scientific and Practical Center (SPC) for Bioresources of National Academy of Sciences (NAS) of Belarus. In response to our appeal by e-mail we received several comments on that article, authored by respected scientists, whose names are known not only in Belarus, but also abroad. We mentioned the comments below.


"It is disconcerting that the Director of SPNT desires to solve the problem of the number of animals by means of a gun"


"Vasily Gurkov - a well-known practitioner and hunting expert in Belarus. Many approaches used on the territory of supervised by him the National Landscape Reserve (NLR) "Nalibokskiy" are quite innovative and worthy of implementation in practice of other SPNT.  The reserve" Nalibokskiy" itself is the example of nature protection area with a great potential for the development of eco-tourism.


In assessing of the approaches discussed in the publication do not forget about the current nature protection status of the territory supervised by Vasily. This is National Landscape Reserve. Under current law the economic activity on the territory of reserves differs from that on the territory of hunting grounds. Therefore it is disconcerting that the Director of SPNT desires to solve the problem of the number of animals by means of a gun SPNT are primarily organised for the conservation of the natural structure of animal populations including predators.


It is inappropriate to compare the rate of growth of the animals quantity in the reserve to that in the hunting grounds. In hunting grounds the focus is primarily on profit from economic activities and hunting. In reserve the priorities include ecological education of population by means of demonstration of natural environment and animals that live in it, as well as protection of rare and endangered species. The formation of large herds of animals (including ungulates) in such areas is not allowed.


Regarding predators in the NLR "Nalibokskiy" V. Gurkov is trying to apply the same approaches that exist for the hunting grounds in general. That, in my opinion, is not correct. The population of these animals within the boundaries of the reserve should be protected, and in the surrounding areas that do not have this status, a hunter is free to regulation the number of animals  on his own, guiding the hunting law. Of course it is quite a formal approach, but only if this condition is met the existence of any protected area makes sense, otherwise it turns into an ordinary hunting ground.


I would like to draw attention to the title of the article: it sounds incorrectly, also photos of killed animals are shown. "


Gregory Yanuta,


The head of the Laboratory of Theriology of SPC for Bioresources of NAS of Belarus,

PhD in Biology, Associate Professor


Hunting in Nalibokskiy Forest


(Photo was taken from the hunting site)

"Having read that publication in the Belarusian forest newspaper and knowing V. Gurkov as the Director of the reserve "Nalibokskiy" and having seen his photograph with a carbine in the hand in the article where he was bragging that had killed more than a hundred wolves and was lobbying the murder of predators in the nature reserve "Nalibokskiy", a sad idea appeared that not environmentalist, but raging hunter supervised the reserve "Nalibokskiy",  obsessed with the murder of animals.


He says that a man should host in the forest, not the wolves and other predators, but he forgets that he supervises not hunter grounds, but nature protection territory and has to protect the unique complex, where natural processes should go by itself and where predators – the main regulating species.

V. Gurkov refers to the great productivity of deer populations in a number of hunter grounds, but forgets that for nature protection territories it is not an indicator, because there a deer is not for hunting.


V. Gurkov says that every year they are trying to get permission to wolf killing, but forgets that according to the adopted in Belarus (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection) documents, the opposite position is established, completely different. In the plan of the reserve "Nalibokskiy" management it is confirmed that the wolf in this region - is vulnerable species and needs to be protected in the reserve. The wolf population management plan, adopted by the  Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus prohibits wolves prey on the protected areas of more than  ​​400 km2. V. Gurkov knows what to do concerning the wolf in the reserve "Nalibokskiy", but aspires the opposite and persistently wants to kill a wolf in the reserve, neglecting his directors' duties established by the mentioned plans of management.


V. Gurkov says that in a difficult time they feed animals. I remember the time of snow cyclone Javier when in a snowy month after the  cyclone more than 90% of roe deers dead (this is not less than 4,000 roe deers), and the administration of the reserve did not do anything to support and feed the animals by available silage, which remained not used in the neighboring kolkhoz in Kozlki. Within six months in the time of Ministry sessions and in written appeals on the wolf prey V.Gurkov blamed wolves for mass roe deers death, but not himself.


Sometimes aurochs die in drainage ditches. V.Gurkov blames wolves for the killing of aurochs, while it is obvious that the aurochs bog down in the peat of these ditches. But it is more convenient, of course, to blame the wolves. I remember how we dragged four aurochs, which were bogging down in the peat  of a ditch in Naliboksaya Pushcha. We faced difficulties to ask V.Gurkov for a help. Do not blame the wolves, but clean from the peat the aurochs ways through the ditches and channels.


And I remember well about mentioned by V.Gurkov «care» of the reserve capercaillies. In the spring of 2016, this «care» resulted in new roads through the center of capercaillies so-called courting tacks  in specially protected areas, and in dozens and dozens traps without signaling systems which broke capercaillies legs and wings (what has already been written here).


On the place of Ministry I would not take in the staff of nature protection institutions hunters, and of course not appoint them to be directors  of such institutions and territories. While in the reserve "Nalibokskiy" the main staff -  hunters with a lifetime of experience.


I consider this situation, inverted upside down, abnormal, and the title and context of the article of M.Tolochko - a serious challenge to the case of nature protection in Belarus. 



Vadim Sidorovich,


The chief researcher of SPC for Bioresources of NAS of Belarus,

Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor

(30 years of predators research, including wolves)




"I consider this situation, inverted upside down,
abnormal, and the title and context of the article of M.Tolochko -
a serious challenge to the case of nature protection in Belarus "

V. Gurkov (right) after the "successful" hunting

(Photo was taken from the website of the Belarusian forest newspaper)

Dear readers, if you are interested in this topic, please send your comments to the editorial board of the Belarusian forest newspaper. At the bottom of the article - the form to post comments.



Each of you can also refer your complaints, comments and suggestions to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection of Belarus. It is possible to send an appeal as a registered letter and in electronic form. See here a sample letter. 



The author: Ludmila Loginovskaya