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Georgian Government auctions off massive swath of land for hunting

22 April 2022
An image of a section of the auctioned off land. Photo: Tinatin Arveladze.

The Georgian National Environment Agency has auctioned off a 1,000 square kilometre area of forest to a limited liability company, who, according to Georgia’s National Environment Agency, was the sole bidder in the auction.

The winner of the 11 March auction was HG Capra Caucasica, which acquired a special hunting license for ₾1 million ($330,000) in the Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti region. The license covers an area which includes the Oni, Ambrolauri, and Lentekhi forests.

The forests and the wildlife native to it are on the International Union for Conservation’s Red List and are protected by the Berne Convention.

‘Only one bidder participated in the auction, therefore the license was issued to the winning bidder’, a spokesperson for the National Environment Agency told OC Media. ‘On March 23 of this year, [HG Capra Caucasica] was issued a special hunting license.’ 

They added that hunting in the area leased to HG Capra Caucasica ‘will be allowed only for specific — and not all — species within the quotas set by the state’.

Tinatin Arveladze, acting director of Sabuko, a nature and wildlife preservation NGO, told OC Media that she has doubts about the possibility of the Georgian authorities effectively enforcing the hunting regulations. 

‘In our country, when there aren’t any good biodiversity monitoring systems, the Department of Environmental Supervision itself doesn’t have enough resources to detect all violations in such a large area’, she told OC Media. ‘Consequently, when we don’t know the status and number of species, issuing a license for 49 years does not fit into any logic.’

According to CompanyInfo, a registry containing information on companies operating in Georgia, the director of HG Capra Caucasica is Kakha Amisulashvili. Though information is scant on the company, Amisulashvili appears to also be associated with several other holdings, including as director of GVG Holdings, a digital marketing agency.

The territory leased to HG Capra Caucasica. Image via official auction documents.

Half a century

In Georgia, the maximum term for leasing both agricultural and non-agricultural lands is 49 years. 

The 1,000 square kilometre hunting zone is home to a variety of species, some near threatened, including the golden eagle, Caucasian grouse, sheep, orb, lynx, otter, and bears among others.

Aside from hunting regulations, the license requires the company to meet provisions and obligations throughout the contract period, such as allowing the local population to move around freely and collect firewood in the area.

In addition, the National Environment Agency stipulated that HG Capra Caucasica must invest at least ₾5 million ($ 1,600,000) in the territory over the next five years, and that 80% of the employees working there must be from the local municipality.

‘The licensee [HG Capra Caucasica] is obliged to place the relevant tourist infrastructure on the hunting area for the development of adventure and ecotourism, and they are obligated not to interfere with the creation of protected areas in the existing license area’, the National Environment Agency spokesperson told OC Media.

In protest against permitting the lease, Sabuko has publically declared its intent to file a lawsuit against the agency.

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