This map highlights some activity which involves use of heavy machinery, off road driving and digging. Area of disturbance belongs to the Goravan Sands State Sanctuary, which is under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Nature Protection of Armenia. An emergency field survey is necessary to determine the source of this activity.
From the map, it is clear that this activity polygon overlaps with the critical habitat supporting Critically Endangered Horvath's Toad Headed Agama (Phrynocephalus persicus horvathi) and Critically Endangered Transcaucasian Racerunner (Eremias pleskei) (see Tadevosyan, 2005-2006). Red quadrats demonstrate locations of squares where P. persicus horvathi and E. pleskei were found in 2005.
Irrelevant of the source of this vehicle activity, unsupervised driving off road vehicles by untrained personnel within a reptile habitat is known cause of road mortality of reptiles. A number of localized dense accumulation of driving tracks suggests local deep disturbance of the sandy soil, which in its turn has been considered a cause of irreversible habitat destruction for P. persicus horvathi (Tadevosyan, 2005). Direct killing of reptiles due to unsupervised use of the critical habitat is also highly likely.
In order to manage this case, we suggest the following list of actions to be undertaken as soon as possible.
1. To find out who is responsible for the activities under consideration. (To me it looks like this can be a military training).
2. To review and to find out whether this activity has been authorized? If yes, then what are legal and biological grounds for such an authorization. If authorization exists, it likely contradicts the Law about Animal World and the Low about Especially Protected Areas. Therefore, we advise to review conditions of authorization, or to file a law suit against unauthorized land use.
If, use is authorized, then conditions of authorization should be reviewed and require implementation of the following mitigation measures:
1. Consider shifting the disturbance area out of the sanctuary, or reshaping the polygon about 200 m west and narrowing it along private lands. This way the land use will get shifted to the historically used area, already unsuitable for target lizards due to inadequate soil quality.
2. To organise regular training courses for personnel involved into disturbing activities to educate them about relevant conservation priorities, and mitigation methods they have to apply to protect every single reptile and the habitat being used.
3. Set up and finance a group of trained environmental monitors to assist with training and moving wildlife from harms way during the disturbing activities.
4. Set and exclusion fence if necessary to prevent animals from entering active disturbance areas.
5.Set up a research team to cooperate with monitoring team and evaluate effects of disturbance on the local wildlife and their habitat.