Armenian Bezoar Goats: A “Red Book” Animal
Would you be interested to see the graceful endangered Bezoar goats grazing and jumping over the red cliffs in the Vayotz Dzor Province of Armenia? Then pack your bags, come down to our amazing country and join any of our tours featuring Bezoar goats!
In the southeast of Armenia, among the mountains at an altitude of 1,800m above sea level, there is an area called the Arpa Protected Landscape, where lies the habitat of the Caucasian Bezoar goats.
The Bezoar goat is the progenitor of all domestic goats. Asia is considered the homeland of all goats. From there, these animals began their migration to the east and west.
They settled slowly, managing to form new species. All goats are adherents of the rocky type of life and feel more confident when there is a stone under their hooves. The toes of mountain goats are clothed in a hard horn shoe – elasticly rough and sensitive when touched with hard objects. This is very convenient for the conquerors of mountain steeps.
By the way, about that name: ‘bezoar’ is a kind of lump of stuck hair that got into the stomach of a goat along with food. This byproduct of goat digestion used to be considered almost magical – it has so many good medicinal properties. And the blood of a goat was also considered healing, rings made of goat’s horns allegedly ensure good health to a person, so it is not surprising that over time all types of mountain goats were on the verge of extinction, and today are included on the lists of all kinds of animal protection agencies.
The rare species of the Caucasian Bezoar goats are no exception, and they are listed in the “Red Book” of Armenia. During Soviet times, some 4,000 Bezoar goats and Armenian mouflons lived in the area.
Even though illegal hunting was not uncommon then, the situation dramatically worsened from the early 1990 until the early 2000s, when poaching became the norm and the animals systematically killed. Many species became the endangered species, some to the point of extinction.
The situation began to improve in the late 2000s. The legislation was tightened, a fine of 3 million Armenian drams (about $6,000) was established for poachers, and in 2014 this area was taken under special protection. This led to an increase in the population of Bezoar goats. The employees of the protected area are fighting for the revival of the population, and now there are already about 1,000 individuals living here, and before that there were no more than a hundred of them.
The protected area comprises some 3,000 hectares containing around 800 plant species, 47 of which are registered in the “Red Book” of Armenia. 39 mammal species, of which 14 are nationally or globally threatened, inhabit the area. These include Armenian mouflons, Bezoar goats, Brown bears and famous Persian (Caucasian) leopard.
The protected area is controlled by the “Caucasus Nature Fund” (CNF), “World Wildlife Fund” (WWF), “Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund” (CEPF), the Ministry of the Environment of the Republic of Armenia, and local communities. Patrols work around the clock, and the area is monitored using cameras and drones.
Bezoar goats play an important role in the ecosystem chain. On the one hand, they act as regulators of the plant world, on the other, they are food for predators. After all, bears and leopards also live here, and if there are no goats, the ecosystem will be disrupted.
In recent years, the interest in Bezoar goats among tourists has increased, and at Phoenix Tour, we included in the itinerary a visit to the Gnishik Protected Area with an observation deck “Ditaket” in the village of Shatin, where you will have an opportunity to observe Bezoar goats in all their glory. Their climbing on the rocks and jumping on the roof of Noravank Monastery is a truly mesmerizing sight!
Watching Bezoar goats is on the itinerary of our following tours: