The beavers of Tuva in distress

The beavers of Tuva in distress

Saglai Sandanchik

More and more animals and plants are disappearing forever from the face of the earth. This is not least due to the fact that in the past biologists, botanists and ecologists tried to introduce existing species in areas where they did not exist before. Therefore, my work is devoted to an environmental project started in the Republic of Tuva (Russian Federation):
The Tuvan Beaver Project.

“CanadaBuilds150: Moose and Beaver” by BrickinNick is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

It is widely known that the traders of the Russian Empire went to the East for the furs. As a result of 300 years of indiscriminate hunting, sable, beaver and other valuable animals in the Siberian forests are threatened with extinction. At the beginning of the century, beaver was on the verge of extinction not only in Russia, but also in many other countries of Europe, Asia and North America due to indiscriminate hunting. Under the threat of losing the valuable hunting opportunity and vital segment of wetland ecosystems prompted the government to take active measures on beaver conservation.

In the 1934s, a period of active reacclimation and introduction of beaver began in the USSR. By the 1980s, stable spatial groupings of the European beaver (Castor fiber L.) and Canadian beaver (Castor canadensis Kuhl) occupied significant areas of Siberia and completely displaced the other beavers. However, a genetically different beaver survived in one particular Tuvan landscape. In 1986, the Russian Academy of Sciences launched a program to study and conserve the Tuvan beaver. As a result, they identified several specific characteristics of the Tuvan beaver. The most important is that it does not build castles like other beavers. He prefers to dig burrows and live in them. Therefore, he does not build dams.

The Tuvan beaver project aims to use methods and theoretical insights from social anthropology to explore how economic and environmental policies have intruded into the world of beavers, plants and people, and how “real science” is changing the future of different species. Research thus far has shown that this ecological project can be viewed from a variety of perspectives: from postcolonial theory, the idea of the “Anthropocene,” and the idea of interspecies relationships.
Postcolonial theories led me to raise several questions. How have geohistorical policies affected the lives or deaths of people and beavers? What policy decisions were made, what did they lead to?
From an “Anthropocene” perspective, the planetary crisis is currently being actively debated in the world. Many scientists looking for answers agree that the changes that have taken place and led to the crises are more or less related to the concept of the “Anthropocene.” Some blame the entire humanity for this age, others refer to a narrow circle of people, a few – to a complex of living and non-living beings, third refer to abstract concepts and ideas. All these are, in one way or another, models that try to justify the nature of the environmental crisis and offer more flexible methods of dealing with it.

The main questions to be answered in this context are as follows.

What is the role of scientists in environmental disasters?
To what extent do the conservation and dispersal decisions of ecologists or biologists contribute to the protection of nature?

The final theoretical direction is interspecies relations. These concepts address the issues of the profound overlap and mutual becoming of humans and different species (Haraway, Candea). These ideas are seen as connected to the great divide between human and non-human, nature and culture, etc. Thus, D. Haraway deconstructs the conceptualizations of “human” and “animal” and calls for attention to the inhuman participation of society: “Pay attention to who is and becomes who within the current conditions of technoculture.”
I assume that the following questions can be addressed in this context: 3. Who can be included in the concept of species? 4. who is who and what are the consequences? 5. who are the introduced plants and the Tuvan beavers in the times of technoculture? Who are the beavers now? Who are we studying when we look at beavers? Who have Tuvan beavers become in technoculture?

Since the collection of empirical data has just begun, it is difficult for me at present to answer unequivocally which of the directions will end up prevailing in the dissertation.

Since the collection of empirical data has just begun, it is difficult for me at present to answer unequivocally which of the directions will end up prevailing in the dissertation.
The study of the project on the introduction of animals in the Republic of Tuva will be conducted using ethnographic, sociological and historical methods (participant observation, interviews and analysis of documents). The preliminary plan of the research includes Kyzylsky and Todzhinsky districts of the Republic of Tuva.

Read on

  1. Beavers with Tuvan character. (2013). Tuva. Asia.
  2. Belovolov, A. (2017, April 6). Sarig kundus—The progenitor of all beavers. Siberian wealth.
  3. Sambyla, C. (2014). Vulnerable, rare and endangered plant species of Tuva in the course “Theory and methods of local history work in primary school.” Tuvan State University Bulletin. Pedagogical Sciences, 4, Article 4.
  4. The Tuvan beaver has unique biological features and is listed in many Red Data Books. (2017). Tuva-Online.
  5. Tuvinian beaver – all beavers a firm. (2004).

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