By James Hardcastle of IUCN’s Global Protected Areas Programme.

The colours of Georgia’s wilderness, wildlife, cultural heritage and natural beauty shine from beneath their spotlamp-lined gallery, in a darkened corridor, at the heart of the Geneva UN edifice.

The exhibition showcasing the jewels of Georgia’s protected area system was opened on 7 November by the Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva in collaboration with the Georgia Agency for Protected Areas (GAPA). A short introduction highlighted the progress Georgia has made in establishing a system of protected areas. Since 1995, impressive conservation outcomes are being recorded across the country, including the re-appearance of leopard, and re-introduction of goitered gazelle, and Kolkheti pheasant.

Emotive names such as Kakheti, Vashlovani and Lagodheki match the flowing landscapes in the images. In Tusheti, we view snow-flecked Alpine forests nestled between windswept meadows, sternly overshadowed by imposing peaks of the Greater Caucasus range. Rufus stone towers mark the outposts of the Tush people of the mountainous communities who co-manage the National Park.

The vast lowland expanse of the Alazani floodplain in Eastern Georgia is peppered with pistachio orchards, and characterised by a jutting volcanic array of cliffs and gulleys. The deepest blue skies melt from the distant, snow-capped indigo mountain spires on the horizon. In one photograph, a leopard stalks the early evening, caught on camera in Vashlovani Nature Reserve, the first record of the species in Georgia for 50 years.

Mr Rati Japaridze, Chairman of the GAPA, presented the latest achievements of the country in establishing protected areas that benefit people and biodiversity. Georgia has already over 7.5% of its country under formal protection, with the trend showing an even further increase.

He acknowledged the support of international agencies such as WWF and IUCN in helping Georgia ensure that conservation objectives were in line with international best practices and quality standards, while at the same time highlighting that protected areas also contribute to the country’s economy, in particular through Georgia’s burgeoning domestic and international parks tourism.

Mr Shalva Tsiskarashvili, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the UN in Geneva, remarked that Georgia is taking its commitments to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) very seriously as part of the country’s path to sustainable development and green growth.

If you happen to be in Geneva the exhibition runs until tomorrow 15 November in the UN Palais des Nations – Passerelle in Geneva, accessed through the Pregny gate and through Porte 40.

Read about Georgia’s biodiversity and IUCN’s work to protect it.