Director of the KarsArdahan documentary is an emerging Turkish documentarist Alkım Ün. In 2009 he received an award in Boston Turkish Film Festival with this production. Alkım Ün has a degree in biology education and has a particular talent in “reading the landscape” with the eyes of a biologist. Just before the project he had made lengthy observations on wildlife of the region.
Kars – Ardahan Plateau is a biologically and geologically distinct region of Turkey. It sits between two mountain ranges where two biodiversity hotspots namely the Caucasus and the Irano-Anatolian overlap. Snow fed rivers form extensive wetlands and has some of the most critical habitats for migrating and breeding birds. Some of these rivers carry water all the way to the Caspian Sea.
Simulations aiming to predict the future climate under various atmospheric carbon levels have shown that this region performs a particularly strong resilience against the warming. Plants don’t move but their genes do. To cope with a warming world plants can either migrate north towards cooler latitudes or climb into the higher altitudes along mountains. Kars – Ardahan Plateau provides both solutions. This is the geography where ancient flood stories Noah’s arc and Mount Ararat find reality.
There are quite a few non-governmental organizations (NGO) working to conserve the natural riches of the region. These NGOs provide assessments, surveys and monitoring of wildlife which can guide local and national government bodies to do the right thing which has a rather bleak environmental score card within the past decade. Turkey is one of the worst occupying 121st place for biodiversity and habitat conservation among 136 countries included in Yale Environmental Performance Index published in 2012.
One of the NGO’s Kuzey Doga is in a bitter struggle with the government to prevent construction of a dam on Aras River which will destroy one of the most important bird habitat on Africa-Eurasia migration route.
Another NGO Doğa Derneği is a partner of BirdLife International in Turkey and also joins the struggle against dam constructions on important cultural heritage and critical wildlife habitats. The documentary DAMocracy made by Todd Southgate is a reflection of the thousands of dams planned to be built in Turkey some of which already started to destroy local economies and nature in the mountains of the Blacksea region.
Turkey harbors quite a few RAMSAR sites that have satisfied strict criteria of the international convention. Together with attractive historical riches such as Ani archeological site which was the capital of the medieval (Bagratuni) Armenian Kingdom abandoned and largely forgotten following the earthquake of 1319, the Kars-Ardahan plateau may evolve into a new protected area which may resemble that of the Yellowstone as a model.
In addition to wolves there are also brown bears in the area some of which have been fitted camera collars: