China and Russia declare international sanctuary for rare Siberian tigers

Jilin province of China and neighboring Primorsky province in Russia have agreed to collaborate formally in working towards the first transboundary Amur tiger protected area, WWF, the international conservation organization, said in a news release yesterday.

“The signed agreement, facilitated by WWF, the global conservation organization, will help wildlife authorities eventually establish a transboundary protected area–acooperative conservation network that crosses country borders–in the provinces that are home to the world’s largest big cat,” WWF said.

The population of the highly endangered Amur tiger, also known as the Siberian tiger, is currently estimated at 500.

In the agreement signed by Jilin Provincial Forestry Department of China and two Russia agencies–the Wildlife and Hunting Department of Primorsky Province and Special Inspection “TIGER” of Russia (official name of the Bureau on Protection of Rare and Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna)–the two sides will work together in establishing a tiger conservation protected area in both provinces, as well as partner to restore the endangered species, WWF explained.

Siberian tiger and cubs in the snow.jpg

National Geographic photo of Siberian tiger and her cubs in the snow by Michael Nichols.

“A new transboundary protected area would provide a wider and healthier habitat for Amur tigers and other endangered species, such as the Far East leopard, musk deer and goral,” said Yu Changchun, Director of Conservation Department of Jilin Forestry Department.

Siberian tigers facts.jpg

“While tigers–the species at the top of the eco-system–are better conserved through the agreement, other species, the forest habitat and all the bio-diversity resources will also benefit from this protected area,” said Zhu Chunquan, WWF-China’s Conservation Director.

As part of the agreement, WWF said, Jilin and Primorsky provinces will increase information sharing on Amur tiger and Far East leopard protection, work to adopt identical monitoring systems for tigers and their prey, and conduct joint ecological surveys and develop plans to launch an anti-poaching campaign along the China-Russia boarder.

“Destruction and fragmentation of habitat, poaching and lack of prey have reduced the number of wild Amur tigers,” WWF said. “One of six remaining subspecies of tigers…the Amur tiger is primarily found in eastern Russia, with a small number in northeastern China. Among that population, 20 tigers have been periodically spotted within the borders of China’s Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.”

“This agreement is a great boost for Amur tiger habitats in Russia and China. Since both countries play a crucial role in terms of global tiger recovery, a future transboundary network would represent a big step in WWF’s global tiger conservation effort,” said Sergey Aramilev, the Biodiversity Coordinator for Amur Branch of WWF-Russia, which is also involved in promoting the agreement. “There’s a lot of work to be done to implement this agreement, such as making sure it receives proper government funding, but this is a major step forward nonetheless.”

“The agreement marks another milestone during the Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2010,” WWF added. “WWF launched the TX2 campaign early this year, which seeks to double the number of wild tigers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022. A groundbreaking tiger conservation declaration from the 13 countries that still have wild tiger populations was prepared in Bali, Indonesia in July this year, and is due to be signed before the close of Year of the Tiger at a tiger conservation summit hosted by Russia. The Declaration seeks to create a tiger recovery program that is global in scope while also promoting transboundary cooperation amongst the 13 tiger range countries.”

Posted by David Braun from media materials provided by WWF.

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn