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Russia's Ramsar Wetland Sites

In acknowledgment of the ecological, cultural, recreational, economic and scientific importance of wetlands worldwide, representatives from seven countries gathered at Ramsar in Iran to sign the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, more commonly referred to as the Ramsar Convention, with its stated mission being "the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world". Since the signing of the Ramsar Convention in 1971, dozens of countries have ratified the agreement and had wetlands within their borders undergo scientific review for inclusion as Ramsar sites. Russia ratified the Ramsar Convention in February 1977, with its first listed wetlands being the Volga River Delta, Kandalaksha Bay and Lake Khanka, and currently has thirty-five Ramsar certified wetlands.

In 1994, the Mshinskoye Boloto Zakaznik (zakaznik being the Russian term for a protected area where development is prohibited) in the Leningrad Oblast of northwest Russia was listed as a Ramsar Wetland. The area lies where the Oredezh River and Yashchera River split off as tributaries of the Luga River and includes three lakes – Vyalye, Strechno and Mochalishche. As the whole area is by definition a wetland, it is difficult for humans to gain access to, which is no doubt advantageous for the flocks of birds that live there, such as the whooper swan, Eurasian curlew, Eurasian bittern, Eurasian eagle-owl, black-throated loon, white stork, black stork, osprey and golden eagle.

As one of the largest species of owl, the Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo) has an average wingspan of 188 centimeters. Its facial features are not as distinct as many owl species, but blend into its streaked neck and belly. It has bright yellow-orange eyes and very distinctive ear tufts, which look almost like horns. Its upper parts are mottled yellowish-brown and black with buff underparts streaked with dark brown. As a nocturnal predator, Eurasian eagle-owls are very adept at catching small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish, as well as large insects. As is the case with all animals living in the Mshinskoye Boloto Zakaznik, Eurasian eagle-owls thrive in undisturbed habitats such as those protected by the Ramsar Convention.

Other Ramsar accredited sites in Russia include the Beryozovye Islands, Chany Lake, Onega Bay's Islands, Kandalaksha Bay, Karaginsky Island, Kuban River Delta, the Kurgalsky Peninsula, Lake Bolon, Lake Khanka, Lake Manych-Gudilo, Lake Udyl, Svir River Delta, Tobol-Ishim Forest-steppe and the Zeya-Bureya Plains.


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