Looking to report to the international community and U.S. donors, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s‚ÄòForever Siberian Tigers’ project team at the Hunchun Nature Reserve in northeast China has put out the third edition of its English language newsletter, in which it reports on recent conservation, public outreach and educational efforts to protect the endangered Siberian tiger, including the implementation of MIST, a conservation management information system.
Only an estimated 330-370 adult Siberian tigers are believed to exist in the wild and most of them have been pushed into the mountainous borderlands of the Russian Far East and northeast China.
Home to a unique assemblage of plant and animal life, Far Eastern Russia’s Sikhote-Alin and China’s East Manchurian Mountains are two of the rapidly declining numbers of large areas in the world that can boast of an exceptional variety of large mammals, including boreal lynx and wolf, the Himalayan black bear, the Asian sika and temperate region red deer.
They are also home to the Amur, or Far Eastern, leopard, a species in even greater threat of extinction. Their numbers have been reduced to a mere 25-30, according to the most recent surveys, primarily due to habitat loss that includes expanding populations, land development and natural resource exploitation, according to the WCS.
Working for Healthy, Sustainable Co-Existence
Based on more than a decade’s worth of preliminary field surveys and research that began in Russian Siberia in 1996, WCS and local researchers and residents have laid the groundwork for a transboundary network of protected areas and management zones that stretches across China’s Jilin and Heilongjian provinces. The New York-based wildlife conservation organization, which operates the Bronx Zoo, is now working with Chinese and Russian authorities and wildlife specialists to make this a reality.
Poorly managed natural resource exploitation – the region is rich in timber and a range of precious and industrial minerals – along with land development are the primary threats to Siberian tigers and their co-habitants on the Russian side of the border, while locals on the Chinese side have traditionally relied on raising livestock and forest products for their livelihoods. In addition to preying on villagers’ livestock, tigers and leopards are poached for their fur and their body parts are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Hence, in addition to its conservation work, WCS project team members are working to find solutions that can assure the livelihoods of both the local human and region’s wildlife populations.
With WCS research, lobbying and financial support, the Jilin Province protected area was created in 2000 and the Hunchun Tiger-Leopard Reserve established in 2001. Spanning some 100,000 hectares, the reserve provides protected habitat for tigers and leopards running parallel to the Borisovkoe and Barsovy protected areas on the Russian side of the border. The Fenghuangshan Reserve in Heilongjiang in 2002 was upgraded to provincial level.
Aiming to create a transboundary network of protected tiger and wildlife habitat, WCS is now working with Russian and Chinese government agencies and has conducted workshops for wildlife managers on both sides of the border.
WCS has also provided training workshops for new reserve staff and is working with the Hunchun Reserve and sponsors to establish compensation programs for villagers who lose cattle to tiger depredation.