On May 15, 2010, prior to the International Biodiversity Day, the Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds (BirdLife in Armenia) organized “Crane – Bird of Peace Festival” held in the village of Mets Sepasar, Shirak province.
The Festival celebrated one of Armenia’s critically endangered and red listed species, the Common Crane. It is not by mere chance that Shirak (L. Arpi Important Bird Area) was chosen to be the place to hold the festival. L. Arpi IBA is thus far the only breeding ground for Common Cranes in Armenia and, to say the least, a place where a new subspecies has been discovered in 2008. The newly identified subspecies of the Common Crane breeds only in the northern regions of Armenia, in waterlogged meadows and wetlands adjacent to Lake Arpi, in the Javakheti region in Georgia and in Kars district in Turkey. It was given its scientific name, Grus grus archibaldi, in honour of the world renowned biologist and distinguished conservationist Dr. George W. Archibald who has dedicated his life to research and conservation of cranes.
Despite these remarkable creatures have attracted the attention of Man down the centuries and have inspired him to write poems and create enamoring pieces of art, it is people that often appear the only enemies of these majestic birds. And precious few of us know that their survival is dependent on the people living side by side with the bird. Our celebration started out with art exhibitions of local children and countrymen who presented interesting works under the thematic Crane contest announced prior to the festival. Each village displayed art works that showcased their unique talent and reflected their culture. Beautiful appliqués and pieces of artwork designed from mosses and twigs were strikingly beautiful. Some children expressed their perception of unacceptable human interference into the life of birds in their own way.
The Festival was region-wide in scale and gathered 10 local communities of Shirak province including Mets Sepasar, Ardenis, Tavshut, Ghazanchi, Garnarich, Tsaghkut, Aghvorik, Alvar, Berdashen and Zorakert. The Crane festival was turned into an attractive show in pursuit of raising the local estimation of communities, of the remarkable creatures that inhabit their place and increase their understanding of the need for their immediate protection. It stands to reason that children of the Armenian North are the most deprived and have a more direct contact with Cranes and their threatened environment, thus making their role in conserving them paramount.
Schools participating in the "Crane – Bird of Peace" competition presented works in nominations for the best drawing, best poem, best handicraft and a staged performance. All works have been appraised by an independent jury and the three winners of the competition were selected among the schools. Tavshut was announced as the 1st place winner of the competition with Ghazanchi and Ardenis earning 2nd and 3rd places respectively. The winners were awarded with special prizes for their outstanding performance. Other schools that were not in the prize-winning places received incentive awards and certificates of appreciation from the Society and the Alvar school won the Audience Prize.
The Festival was full of interesting quiz shows (e.g. vocal bird identification, the 10 "yes" or "no" quizzes about birds, etc.) which aimed to stimulate creativity and sharp thinking in children.
Our celebration was enriched by special guest performances: Valeria Cherekian, an Argentine-Armenian singer made an actual opening of the show with song "Kroonk" and the "Art", "Vardevanian dance theater" and "Shogher" outstanding dance shows from Gyumri kept everyone entertained and truly added verve to the entire show.
The Armenian Society for the Protection of Birds wishes to extend its special thanks to the children, the administration and the principal of Mets Sepasar school for hosting and promoting the festival in Shirak province in the best possible way.