Khosrov Forest Case: ‘Green’ Activists Urge Police To Catch ‘Real Cu

By Julia Hakobyan

02.10.12 | 12:10

Alleged illegal hunting in a national park has sparked fresh mutual
accusations between government officials and environmentalists, who
insist that the police have picked the wrong man as a suspect in a
high-profile poaching case.

The Khosrov Reserve again made the news late last month after a civil
initiative group with the identical name disseminated footage with
evidence of illegal hunting in the protected forest area. It filed a
statement with the police saying that during a visit to the territory
of the Khosrov Forest State Reserve its activists found remains
of killed animals listed in the Red Book of endangered species,
in particular a Bezoar goat and a Caucasian bear, as well as traces
of bonfires, household waste, including empty vodka bottes, after
apparent barbecue parties.

Following a demand of the environmentalists that the police conduct
a probe into the case, the Ministry of the Environment set up a
working group, which visited the national park area where it found
and documented the evidence of the crime (including an ibex’s severed

Last Sunday the Armenian police reported an arrest of a resident
of Garni, 29-year-old Norik Sargsyan, who was charged with illegal
hunting in the territory of the reserve.

The very next day, the Khosrov Reserve civic initiative issued a
statement, saying that Sargsyan has nothing to do with the crime and
that the police are trying to frame him psychological intimidation
on him.

“This shows that the police, using methods typical of them, are doing
anything to put the blame on Sargsyan, while covering up the real
criminals and hiding the omissions of the Ministry of the Environment,”
it said.

The Initiative reported that Sargsyan demands that law-enforcement
agencies ensure the presence of his lawyer on a compulsory basis.

“If Sargsyan is not provided with a lawyer, it will be a gross
violation of the law by the law-enforcement agencies. It is not
excluded that he will be coerced into giving the ‘desired’ testimony,”
the group said.

Meanwhile, the Police, too, issued a statement accusing the
environmentalists of obstructing the investigation with their actions
and alleging that the activists in actual fact were not interested
in the disclosure of the case.

“The environmentalists are not interested in dead animals or the
disclosure of the fact of poaching. They do not care even for the
confessed poacher, Norik Sargsyan, whom they have taken under their
protection with amazing zeal. Environmentalists are apparently
interested in another opportunity to make some noise, this time
by means of defending the ‘rights’ of a poacher. Sargsyan is being
portrayed by them as an innocent person who wasn’t aware of anything,
whom the police are trying to put the whole blame on,” the Police
said in the statement, stressing that Sargsyan, too, has served
in the law-enforcement system (Department of State Security of the
Armenian Police) since 2005 and the Police have no need whatsoever to
‘sacrifice their colleague’ or cover up the incident.

Earlier, at a press conference in September, workers of the Ministry
of the Environment expressed their concern over what they described
as the environmental activists’ “illegal” entry to the Khosrov reserve.

Activists were outraged then that instead of finding the perpetrators
of the crime, officials were more preoccupied with their entry to the
territory of the reserve. They believe that the case in the Khosrov
forest was not the work of poachers, but that the crime was committed
by people who had come there to hunt for sport and have a good time.

The Kakavaberd section (where the traces of hunting and partying were
found) is the weakest section of the Khosrov reserve, and there are
many paths along which poachers can easily get to the area supposed
to be protected by the state from poachers.

The Khosrov Reserve is a conservation area in the Ararat region
of Armenia and hunting animals like Red Book-listed Bezoar goats,
Armenian mouflons or panthers in the reserve is punishable with a
fine of up to $7,000.

Still, several websites offer options for hunting some Red Book species
in Armenia. For example, the Ibex club (which has Moscow telephone
numbers) offers “a Bezoar ibex hunting tour in the best mountains
about 120 kilometers from Yerevan”. The hunt for the Armenian mouflon
is organized in the mountains of Meghri, about 500 kilometers from
capital Yerevan.

“Normally 3-5 days of hunting are enough to get a nice trophy,” the
website says in its advertisement, informing visitors that the cost
of the package (which is not specified) does not include a license
for hunting bears, mouflons and goats.

Armenia allows hunting a number of animals such as foxes, wolves,
wild boars and about 10 species of birds. The Ministry notes that
every year they reveal 100 to 160 cases of poaching in the country,
and through the fines imposed on the offenders for damaging wildlife
the state budget annually gets an additional $30,000.