Salome Idoidze is the only female park ranger in the Tusheti National Park in Georgia, a large protected area on the northern slopes of the Greater Caucasus Mountains, bordered by the Russian republics of Chechnya and Dagestan. Salome talks about the Tusheti protected area, and what the park means to her and her country.
Tusheti is one of the richest parts of Georgia in natural and cultural landscapes, with an extremely rich biodiversity, a wealth of flora and fauna and cultural heritage. Despite the fact that the Tusheti State Nature Reserve was established in 1981, uncontrolled hunting, extensive grazing and illegal logging put Tusheti in great danger towards the end of the 20th century. In 2003, Georgia created the “Georgia Protected Areas Development Project” establishing eight new protected areas in East Georgia, of which the Tusheti Protected Area is a part.
Tusheti has immense potential for tourism: we have more than 230 Caucasian endemic species, four of which are listed on the Georgian Red List of endangered species. We also have a high diversity of mammals in region – 32 species of large, medium and small mammals, and 6 bird species are listed in Red List of Georgia and one of them, the cinereous vulture (Aegypius monachus) is globally endangered and listed on IUCN Red List of endangered species. Tusheti is also known for its rustic cuisine, traditional music, colourful needlework, and unique architecture: all ancient traditions that are still kept alive and are very exotic for visitors.
I go to Tusheti in the beginning of every summer and stay there until late autumn, until the snow and avalanches block the road. Just seeing my ‘homeland’ develop through the years I really wanted to do something. I participated in several projects held by the Tusheti Protected Areas administration and that’s when I decided to start working there. At that time I didn’t even know that there were no other female rangers in Georgia.
I have been to every single part of Tusheti and the nature is amazing everywhere, but my village Dartlo, also known as a “village-museum” for its unique architecture, is my favourite place in Tusheti. For me, it’s the most beautiful place on the planet.