Treasuring trash on Black Sea coast

On the Black Sea coast in southern Russia, people are doing their bit to protect the planet. From the art of recycling to rescuing wildlife – RT discovers how the environment is being cared for.

­Artist Nina Nikiforova has no difficulty finding construction materials. Critics might call her art complete rubbish, and in one sense, they would be absolutely right. Everything you see in her gallery is made from litter.

“We’re covering our living space with litter – me too, I’ve contributed,” she tells RT. “So it’s good for me to use this waste creatively.”

Her friend, musician Aleksey, provides some creative accompaniment, also using rubbish to pursue his art.

“I started with just one barrel,” explains Aleksey, demonstrating an improvised wind instrument. “I was invited to a festival before I even had time to work on my instruments, so I just experimented. I just walk around listening to things and what sound they can make,” he explains.

Nina collects her rubbish from the coastline. The winter and spring storms bring her the greatest harvest.

“I come to the seashore every day, no matter what the weather or the time of year. It’s all the same to me – recreation, inspiration, conservation,” Nina added.

And it is not just pieces of rubbish that get a second life. One-month-old lion cub Lena has just been rescued from captivity. She will have to spend the rest of her life recovering at a specialized center.

Staff at this unique conservation park focus their efforts on the sentient and vulnerable. Most animals here were formerly kept by street photographers who let people pose with them for money. They were drugged to keep them docile, had their teeth pulled out to render them harmless, and starved in order to keep them small.

“If we take circus bears who have finished their useful life – it’s not a secret they could well be made into sausages,” Nikolay Mashinsky, deputy director of the park, explains. "Many of the animals we receive, we just can’t save. They’ve been treated as a commodity.”

Big cats like tigers Ramses, Lord, Arthur and Homer, are among the park’s residents. Staff simply do not have the means to give them as much space as they would have in the wild, but at least they are able to exercise, and they have access to a good diet and the veterinary care they so often need.

“The park workers try to do something to save the situation, and so do I,” Nina Nikiforova added. “We both try to save the earth from the savagery of people. So we are colleagues, really.”

From plastic bottles to lion cubs – saving the planet can come in many shapes and sizes. Here, on the Black Sea coast, what might be rubbish to some, most often represents something to cherish for a new generation of conservationists.