Аргентинский художник встал на защиту природы Кыргызстана

The Argentine artist has taken a stand in defense of the nature of Kyrgyzstan

29 May 2023

Luciano Folja is an artist and designer from Argentina. Several years ago, embarking on a journey to explore the world, he arrived in Kyrgyzstan: initially in transit on his way to Mongolia, and later making a conscious choice in favor of our country, where he has been living for four years now. As a creative and free-spirited individual, unburdened by unnecessary and encumbering domestic "clutter," Luciano feels comfortable under the roof of his own "van home." He converted an ambulance from the 90s into a living and working space, designed to be independent of external infrastructure.

For the past few months, Luciano has settled in the Ton district of the Issyk-Kul region. His love for the local nature and concern for it keep the artist in the Kyrgyz mountains of the Kök-Say, where he focuses on environmental conservation projects.

"Here, I work collaboratively with the team of the public micro-reserve 'Baibosun.' When I first came here two years ago, the game warden Baatyrbek Akmatov showed me incredible footage captured by camera traps installed in the natural area. I saw a snow leopard and other endangered animals, living in an idyllic landscape. I fell in love with this project and promised myself to come back. And after some time, I did it to help the 'Baibosun' staff establish communication with the rest of the world for the enlightenment and preservation of nature. As a person from the worlds of art, design, and communications, I believe that with the right strategy, we can build bridges between nature and people. My task at 'Baibosun' is to convince the local residents that they can manage the project themselves, using decision-making tools that will benefit where it is most needed," Luciano explains. The project mentioned by Luciano started in 2019 when rural residents decided to take on the responsibility and duties of preserving the forested area and pastures in the Baibosun gorge. The public foundation "SAMR Alatoo" supported this initiative and assisted activists in undergoing the necessary legal procedures to grant the area the status of a "public micro-reserve." A small group of former hunters took on the task of guarding the 14,000 hectares of the reserve. They retrained as public game wardens and, with the support of the foundation, obtained animal surveillance systems (camera traps), equipment, GPS navigators, and mobile devices for communication in high-altitude areas. The public work of the Baibosun game wardens was recognized with the United Nations World Award for ecosystem revival. This was announced at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15), held in Montreal, Canada, at the end of last year.

The attention from an authoritative international organization and the recognition of Baibosun's activities at its level serve as an inspiring example for the entire team of enthusiasts and altruists, according to Luciano. "It's easy to take for granted the beauty that surrounds us every day. But at the same time, it's important for people living here to understand the value of preserving the environment and the importance of caring for the wild flora and fauna. By working together, we can leave future generations a chance to enjoy the natural beauty and biodiversity of the Baibosun reserve. It's a challenging task, but we must take it on if we want to preserve the precious natural resources that sustain our existence," Luciano Folja shares his perspective.

Today, he no longer sees himself merely as a volunteer whose contribution to nature conservation would be a one-time effort until the next destination on his world travel map. Luciano considers himself an integral member of the game warden squad, conducting patrols of the territory. Spending time in the reserve has led him to a deep understanding of the "critical need to preserve nature and inspired various ideas to draw attention to this issue." The first step Luciano took in this direction was creating the website www.baiboosun.com. The resource serves not only as an information hub about the mission, goals, achievements, and news of the reserve but also features engaging multimedia content. The main function of the site is to raise awareness about the challenges faced in preserving wild nature in the region. "We believe that the more people know about the importance of biodiversity conservation, the longer the safe life of animals and plants in this area will last. By visiting our site, users can not only make donations and financially support our mission but also gain a broader understanding of the issues we address. Through this media resource, we also interact with the global community of individuals and organizations who share our passion for environmental protection and the preservation of wild nature in the Baibosun reserve."

Thanks to the website, the public micro-reserve received some financial support, mostly from Luciano's close friends and acquaintances. According to him, any contribution, no matter how small, reinforces the significance of the efforts of the Tien Shan game wardens in protecting wild nature.

Luciano intends to stay in Kyrgyzstan and continue working with the Baibosun team. His next goal is to inspire and attract like-minded individuals—eco-activists, artists, designers, and innovators—and unite them into a community to spread "messages" about the importance of nature conservation. "I am ready to dedicate my time and energy to this important cause and firmly believe that my skills and experience can complement the team's strengths in conducting field research and interacting with the local community. I also plan to learn from the Baibosun reserve team, which has extensive knowledge and experience in the local ecosystem and culture."

The presence of a foreigner willing to invest energy and resources in protecting local natural heritage initially raised surprise and questions among locals. However, the activity, creativity, and friendliness from the unusual guest, along with daily interactions, have made an impact: with each passing day, his connection with the people strengthens, and the language barrier ceases to be a problem. For the game wardens and residents, Luciano Folja is an exceptional example of how boundaries and differences fade away for the sake of dedicating one's life to a cause that will bring benefit and well-being to a distant country and its people, who have warmly embraced the Argentine artist.

Photo from Luciano Folja's personal archive.


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