Alexander Rukhaia, Director of SABUKO (Georgia), won the Withley Award 2016

03.05.2016

Eagle in flight, Georgia; Photo: Folkert de Boer

Alexander Rukhaia, Director  of SABUKO (Georgia), won the Withley Award for his work to protect raptor migrations in the Batumi bottleneck, the  most vital flyway in the Western Palearctic, with more than one million birds-of-prey passing through the region.

 

Along the mountainous Black Sea coast in the Ajara region of Georgia, lies one of the biggest bottlenecks in the world for raptor migration. Recognised as an Important Bird Area and a hotspot for birdwatchers, the Batumi Bottleneck is the most vital flyway in the Western Palearctic, with more than one million birds-of-prey passing through the region. Although illegal, the tradition of shooting raptors has long been prevalent in the coastal communities of Ajara. During the migration, there is a mass indiscriminate killing of birds, with up to 18,000 raptors shot for food and leisure. Limited understanding of hunting regulations and a lack of conservation awareness have ensured it remains a respected family activity. Efforts to enforce hunting legislation are minimal, which only exacerbates the issue.

 

As a Policy Science graduate, it was only once Alexander volunteered to count migrating birds that he saw the killing first-hand and realised he had to do something. Now Founder and Director of Society for Nature Conservation (SABUKO), Alexander has adopted a holistic approach to put an end to this tradition. Working with authorities and local communities, he is disseminating information about hunting regulations, conducting educational activities and building local capacity to support the development of birdwatching tourism. His efforts have already seen an 80% reduction in the number of birds killed in two villages since 2010.

 

In 2014 Stoycho Stoychev from BSPB won the Whitley Award in honour of his work to conserve the Imperial Eagle and its threatened wild grassland habitat in south-eastern Bulgaria.

 

Visit www.whitleyaward.org to find out more.

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Ajara region, Batumi Bottleneck, flyway, Georgia, raptor
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