Joe Heffron is a Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia working with the American University of Armenia's Birds of Armenia project. "Our environmental education volunteers are currently trying to spread environmental awareness through bird watching clubs in the schools and non-profit organizations where we are stationed. I am writing to you to ask for any assistance your organization can provide us. We would greatly appreciate donations of your used equipment, helpful contacts and advice."
As US Peace Corps volunteers, it is our goal to aid Birds of Armenia by teaching their curriculum to birding clubs in our communities across Armenia.
We are asking you for any equipment, particularly used or new binoculars and spotting scopes, that you are able to donate. Especially if you find yourselves in the position to replace or update your equipment, please consider donating your old optics to our clubs. This equipment would greatly enrich field outings and the students' appreciation of Armenia's natural beauty. Even if you are unable to donate at present, we welcome the opportunity to learn from your experiences and share ours with you. Please contact me for further information.
TO MAKE A DONATION, PLEASE EMAIL CHRISTINA ANDERSON, who is putting together a joint package to mail to Joe Heffron.
Armenia is a small country in the Caucasus. In an area slightly smaller than that of Maryland, the landscape varies from semi-desert to temperate forest to alpine tundra. The multitude of bird species that make their homes in or migration routes through Armenia reflects that natural diversity. Of the approximately 550 bird species in Europe and 750 in the expanse of the former Soviet Union, 346 can be found in Armenia, including the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra), Glossy Ibis (Plegadis falcinellus), Imperial Eagle (Aquila heliaca), White-headed (Oxyura leucocephala) and Marbled (Marmaronetta angustirostris) Ducks, Caucasian Black Grouse (Tetrao mlokosiewiczi) and numerous other threatened and endangered species.
Though the Armenian people have historically celebrated their natural environment, this astounding biodiversity is now in peril. During the fragmentation of the Soviet Union and years of war with neighboring Azerbaijan, Armenia faced dire shortages of energy and food as well as inadequate infrastructure. The resulting deforestation, desertification, industrial pollution and nearly nonexistent waste management stand as legacy of that recent era. Despite the serious threats facing Armenia's environment, there is still time to bridge the disconnect between the strong environmental sentiment that reigned before the early 1990s and the present generation.
To this end, Sarkis Acopian founded the Birds of Armenia project in conjunction with the American University of Armenia in 1992. Birds of Armenia has published a beautiful field guide (Adamian M., Klem D.Jr. A Field Guide to Birds of Armenia. American University of Armenia, Yerevan: 1997) in Armenian and English, developed an effective bird identification curriculum for all ages, and initiated "Birds of My Backyard," an annual art and writing contest for children.