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Nature, ecology, nature protection

There are 513 rivers on the territory of Vitebsk region, the total length of which is more than 8.000 km; the largest of them are the Zapadnaya Dvina, Dnepr, Loucheosa, Oolla, and Disna.

The area around the Dvina is called the Lake Area. This Area with its more than 2.800 lakes of 79.300 hectares in total makes Vitebsk region unique among other regions of Belarus. The largest among the lakes are Osvejskoje, Loukoml'skoje, Drivyaty, and Neshcherdo.

There are 26 Republican national parks and 78 nature reserves on the territory of the Region.

Vitebsk region is an actively developed territory with various industries that has been long cultivated and rather densely populated. It is a developed agricultural and industrial area.

The habitat of brown bear on the territory of the Republic of Belarus is restricted to Vitebsk region, the number of this endangered species counts to about 120 animals.

The woodlands provide areas for hunting elk, wild boar, roe deer, beaver, otter, wild marten, stoat, grey and white hare, wood-grouse, heath-cock, hazel-grouse, and wood-cock; numerous bodies of water allow for waterfowl hunt: several kinds of ducks, teals, etc.

National parks, game reservations, nature reserves, and preserved territories balance the ecology of the Region and regulate the exploitation of natural resources, help preserve unique natural ecosystems, historical heritage, and the endangered species of flora and fauna. 8.8% of the territory of the Region (351.9 thousand hectares) belong to the National Reserve of protected natural resources and include 324 items.

The Region holds 1 biosphere reservation, 2 national parks, 26 national and 62 local preserved territories, 78 national and 155 local nature reserves.

Historical landscapes, gene pool of plants and wild animals, crystal clear springs, age-old trees, huge rocks that witnessed the Ice Age and the habitats of relic flora and fauna species are lovingly preserved and kept with great care.

Some of these territories are known and valued world-wide.

Berezinski biosphere reservation is the oldest in the Republic. It was founded in January 1925 to breed and preserve some species that were on the edge of extinction, namely, beaver, who by that time had practically become extinct on the territory of the Republic. Also, the marshes and dense woods of the upper Berezina River gave home to many other rare species such as European mink, otter, wild boar, elk, brown bear, and rare birds..

In 1979, the game reservation acquired the status of biosphere reservation; in 1993, CE included it into its inventory of the biogenetic reservations, and in 1995 awarded it with a European Diploma for the achievements in preserving natural complexes and biological species.

At present, the total area of the reservation is 90628 hectares, 81023 of which are protected; 83,3% of the total area are woodlands.

One of the most unique wildlife species living in the reservation is European bison. At present the herd of bisons living wildly and adapted to the living conditions of the reservation consists of about 10 animals.

Owing to the wide variety of species and richness of nature, the reservation has become a hot spot for organizing international eco trips and educational activities for students, adults, and school children.

The «Braslavskije Ozeora» national park is located in the western part of Vitebsk region and occupies an area of about 70 thousand hectares around the town of Braslav. It was established in 1995 to preserve a unique ecosystem of the Braslav group of lakes and to utilize effectively its potential for self-restoring.

The main attraction of this national park is a beautiful landscape with lakes.

The tops of green hills open up breath-taking stretches of lake waters connected by a labyrinth of natural canals and rivulets, with fancy islands and curved banks where thousands of water and near-water birds make their nests, and where the air is saturated with rich aroma of pines and meadows. All this creates perfect surroundings for relaxation and makes it a wonderful spot for the tourists.

The flora of the national park counts more than 800 plants, 21 of which are in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus as endangered species.

49 species of mammals, 189 species of nesting birds, 5 species of reptiles, 11 species of amphibians and 32 species of fish comprise the fauna of the vertebrates living in the national park, which is 80% of all the wildlife species found on the territory of the Republic of Belarus. 56 species of the park’s wildlife are in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus.

The park is renowned not only for its unique beauty; there are numerous historical monuments of local architecture and decor: historical settlements and towns, palaces, villages, cathedrals and churches, monuments to famous people and historical events.The park is located on the territory of the old Polotsk Duchy, a prominent and mighty state that played the key role in the history ofthe area.

Day trippers, tourists, nature and history lovers can enjoy comfortable hotels, tourists’ homes, hunter’s and fisherman’s lodges, camp grounds and picnic sites; among attractions they can visit the local history museum, craft shops and souvenir stores. The industry of ecotourism and development of the national park has great potential.

There are 28 centres for rest and recuperation in Vitebsk Region, 4 of them are primarily for university students.

Clean and fresh air, rivers and lakes, beaches, swimming and sports facilities, libraries, video lounges, interest clubs and excursions, hospitability and high quality service create a welcoming atmosphere. Experienced specialists, a wide range of diagnostic and medical procedures together with a medically approved well-balanced healthy diet provide good opportunities for rest and recuperation.

The management of the centres pays a lot of attention to keeping high standards of accommodating, treating, and providing services at their best to the visitors.