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After Armenia regained its independence, Lake Arpi, situated in the northernmost part of the country, appeared in neglect. This had extremely negative impacts on the ecosystem of the lake. To remedy the situation, the government took decision in 2009 to establish the Lake Arpi National Park in the Javakhq-Ashotsk region of Armenia. The park covers an area of 21,039.3 ha.
In the course of establishment of the National Park, WWF Armenia played an initiative role as far as from time to time it implements projects to evaluate and neutralize hazards threatening water eco-systems.
The project was realized by the WWF and RA Ministry of Nature Protection, and was supported by funding provided by the Federative Republic of Germany (BMZ) through the KfW Development Bank within the frameworks of the South Caucasus Eco-Region Conservation Project.
The National Park was established from its core, in the vicinity of Lake Arpi, striving to find solution of the biodiversity conservation problems both for the flora and the fauna of the area. Out of the total number of 366 bird species recorded in Armenia, about 225 can be met at Lake Arpi, and from this standpoint the lake has been treated as an area of big interest for bird observations. Among the 225 bird species, 40 are recorded in the Red Book of the RA, 29 are predators, and the rest are diverse other waders and waterfowl birds. Among the recorded species, birds of 80 to 85 species nest locally, and 7 of them are ranked to the category of global conservation concern. These are, namely, the pelican, the corncrake, the endemic species of Armenian gull, and other, all reproducing in the area of the park.
World's largest colony of the Armenian gull and the only habitat of the Dalmatian Pelican in Armenia have been also observed there. Eleven (11) species of fish, 3 species of amphibians, 6 species of lizards and 4 species of snakes, of which one is listed in the Red Book of the RA and in the IUCN Red List, and 38 species of mammals with 3 of them included in the RA Red Book and 2 in the IUCN Red List, have been recorded in the area.
Lake Arpi National Park in 360
This trans-boundary project was implemented in Armenia and in Georgia concurrently: on the part of Armenia, the Lake Arpi National Park was established, and on the part of Georgia, the Javakheti Protected Areas were founded. This is the only trans-boundary conservation area in the region.
The administrative building, guesthouse, warehouse, garage, and visitors’ center of the National Park were built during establishment of the Lake Arpi National Park and the Lke Arpi National Park SNCO; the mentioned facilities were equipped and fit out with appropriate equipment, two off-road vehicles, and a tractor. The Visitors' center is fit out with informative billboards and has a museum.
Apart from the mentioned activities, a monitoring system was deployed as well; it provides for integrated accounting of the biodiversity, and the eco-tourists. Unified trans-boundary maps with indicated trails were produced for tourists in Armenia and Georgia, diverse tourist products that were released included 360° degree photos, video materials, and regional cycling trails, encompassing the Lake Arpi National Park and the Javakheti Protected Areas.
Concurrently, activities had been led at the community level by resolving water supply problems for 12 rural communities and construction of an artificial insemination and cattle breeding center. Construction of a Tourist Center at Mets Sepassar community and the founding of the Lake Arpi bee-farming center also made part of community development activities.
As a result of the actions listed above, now, birds of many species nest in the area again, rather long time after this behavior was not observed.
Establishing the National Park, the primary goal was to conserve the typical biodiversity of the Javakhq-Shirak highland, but, in the meantime, the Lake Arpi National Park would also contribute to sustainable rural development by involving 14 target communities of the northern Shirak region of Armenia.