A major aim of BRC is to raise awareness about the consequences of the widespread raptor shooting and to reduce the illegal killing in the Batumi bottleneck with a community-based conservation approach. This, per definition, "includes natural resources or biodiversity protection by, for, and with the local community”* and it is built on informing and involving local communities, rather than confronting them.
Conservation groups confronted with the illegal killing of migratory birds have typically resorted to immediate law enforcement. In many cases however, the harvesting of migratory birds has long-standing roots and is often not perceived as a crime by local people. The enforcement of existing laws limiting the exploitation of certain species has therefore often created a conflict between conservation groups and local communities.
The Batumi Raptor Count has been very careful to avoid a conservation conflict in the Batumi bottleneck, and has opened the door for dialog. Law enforcement is a necessary step of in any strategy to curb illegal exploitation of natural resources, but we assume it is not desirable and sustainable to insist upon, out of the blue and without broad support from the local community.
We believe a mentality change can be achieved more easily through engagement and cooperation, and that's where we focus on the first place. Measures such as stakeholder involvement, provision of alternative livelihoods, responsible ownership, education and awareness raising serve to build a base of support for conservation and reduce the need for immediate confrontational action.
We would like to thank all our donors, the Ornithological Society of the Middle East (OSME) and BirdLife International for the invaluable support.
*Western, D., and Wright, R. M. 1994. Natural connections: perspectives in community-based conservation. Washington, D.C., USA: Island.