MURMANSK, March 15. /TASS/. A record number of visitors have come to meet with Father Frost at his residence in the Kola Peninsula’s oldest Lapland Reserve in the Murmansk region this winter, director of the Lapland Biosphere Reserve Sergei Shestakov told TASS.
"This winter, 5,679 visitors have come to see Father Frost (Russian Santa), while last year, he met with 4, 894 people," the director said.
The Lapland Nature Reserve is unique for many reasons. Thanks to it, the natural diversity of the Polar nature has been reserved, including one of few European populations of reindeer. Many plants have been discovered in the reserve.
The reserve is the winter home of Russia’s northernmost Father Frost of Lapland.
The nature in the reserve is in the state it was centuries ago. This area was home of the indigenous northern people Sami, and they called that territory special. The reserves’ central location, the residence ashore the Chunozero Lake is surrounded with Sami’s "places of life." Names of those places contain the "el" part, which means "life". Those are El-Luht (Life Bay), El-Yavr (yavr is lake), El-Nyum (nyum is mountain).
The history of both the reserve and its founder is rather unusual. "Herman Kreps was actually the first ecologist in the Kola region, and we should be grateful to him for reserving the Lapland nature, though at the same time he also assisted in development of mining on the Kola Peninsula," the director said.
Kreps came to the North in 1920, and witnessed development of the Arctic region. During construction of the railroad, in some areas the forest burns were 100km wide, the deer herd reduced greatly. And it took Kreps 5 years to persuade the authorities to have a natural reserve in the center of Kola Peninsula.
Nature preservation became essential after opening in the 1930s and further development of the copper-nickel and apatite-nepheline ores deposits. The reserve’s first director helped to deliver the first two tonnes of ore from the Khibiny Mountains to Leningrad for works on industrial production of fertilizers. He organized Sami to bring two tonnes of ore on reindeer sleighs to the railway station.
The reserve’s specialists marked the first director’s 120th anniversary in 2016 by writing a book about him. The book was printed late February. "The financing was allocated by Norilsk Nickel, which for decades now has been helping the natural reserve," the current director said.
In 2016, the company allocated more than 5.4 million rubles (about $91,000) for several projects. Besides the book about Kreps, the money was used also for another outstanding figure in the Arctic nature preservation - Oleg Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky. Some of the money was used for organization of an ecology path.
The Lapland Nature Reserve takes the area of 3,000 square kilometers, it is the fourth among reserves in European Russia in terms of size. Since no people ever lived on the territory of the reserve, the nature remained untouched there. Even though it is surrounded by industrial giants like the Kola GMK, the Apatit Combine, the Kola nuclear power plant, and despite the fact the population in towns around it has grown from five thousand in the 1920s to 220,000 now.
Animals here are reindeer, bear, and moose. Hares and martens often rush past the personnel.
Scientists from across the country and from abroad come here for the continuing discoveries. Finding new plant species is no wonder. "While in 2003, we fixed 114 kinds of mosses, now they are 629 already," the director said. "Some species are absolutely new to scientists."
The biggest winter attraction for tourists visiting the reserve is Father Frost. He began receiving guests in 1995. And later on, a special residence was made for him, and guests, who come from different regions and countries, enjoy entertainment programs there.
"Lapland’s Father Frost has been on central TV more than once, he was well known all over the country, and other regions learned our experience," the reserve’s director said.
Tours to the reserve and winter trips to Father Frost attract visitors from South-Eastern Asia: Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia. This year, the reserve saw first guests from Thailand.
The reserve’s specialists are working hard to improve the environmental situation nearby. Jointly with Norilsk Nickel’s Kola GMK they from 2003 have been working on a project to restore the soil, affected by the industry. The reserve’s scientists told how to treat the soil and to plant trees which could grow there. More than 100 hectares of soil has been restored. About 150,000 trees and bushes were planted around Monchegorsk. Press service of the Kola GMK told TASS Norilsk Nickel’s total investments in those activities had exceeded 75 million rubles (about $1.27 million).
Cooperation between metallurgists and ecologists is impressive. Some species of fauna, sensitive to pollution, are returning to the places where formerly they could not live any longer. Besides, in the city itself, in its central part, now northern orchids demonstrate their gorgeous beauty. Northern orchids are top sensitive to environment and can grow in good conditions only.