Ungulate Recovery Programme in the Amur Tiger Habitats of Far East Russia

Geographical location:

Europe/Middle-East > Eastern Europe > Russian Federation

Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) resting in a water puddle in the forest near Khor river. Amur region, Far East, Russian Federation.
© WWF-Canon / Hartmut JUNGIUS

Summary

The main goal of this project is to find trends and tendencies, which help to increase the wild ungulate population in the most important part of the Amur tiger habitats.

The main reasons for the tigers' decline is degradation of suitable habitat, the lack of a sufficient prey base, primarily ungulates, i.e. red deer, Mandchurian sika, roe deer, wild boar, as well as illegal poaching of tigers.

In over 70% of the Amur tiger's range territory, ungulate populations are under-represented. These ungulates are also popular game species, reason why they have been decimated near human settlements. While tigers are relatively tolerant of people, they are often forced to hunt domestic livestock near farms and settlements, due to the lack of basic prey species in the wild, which results in their being killed by angry local residents.

Background

According to the last full scale census in 1996 (Matyushkin et al.,1996), the total population of Amur tiger had been evaluated at 415 to 476 individuals; about 400 of them inhabit the territory of Primorsky province. The annual monitoring of 16 permanent plots has shown that population is stable for the last 7 years (WCS report). So we can calculate that the rate of ungulates is less than 300 for one tiger. The forage for the tiger population is satisfactory when the rate is 400 to 500 ungulates per tiger. This means that we have a dangerous situation with a misbalance in predators and preys.

The viable population of Amur tigers for the genetic diversity is estimated by the specialists at 500 to 600 adults, or about 700 in total with recruitment (Conservation Action Plan for Amur Tiger in Russia, 1996). To reach such a level of tiger population we should have 250,000 ungulates, including 200,000 in Primorsky province. Therefore the long-term goal of our project is to double the population of tiger preys. The disbalance between tiger and prey became dangerous during the severe winters, like 2002, when WWF and WCS undertook the emergency actions to save sika deers and roe deers under 1.5 meter of snowfall. A similar situation in 1986 led to many human-tiger conflicts near settlements, even in the suburb of Vladivostok; and 46 tigers were officially shot and many of them starved (Kucherenko, 1986).

Each adult tiger needs in average 60 wild ungulates per year. So in Primorsky province the tigers use about 20,000 to 25,000 ungulates, 5,000 to 7,000 of them are preys of other predators (leopard, wolf, brown and black bear, lynx). Hunters shoot under licence up to 5,000 ungulates, plus 10,000 to 15,000 are the victims of poachers. Under such conditions hunters and predators are in competitive struggle.

Objectives

To implement the idea of a balanced wise use of game species as the basis for long-term conservation of the Amur tiger, WWF Russia has prepared the Ungulate Recovery Programme, which is meant to:

- Develop and adopt in Primorsky Province Administration and Parliament the official program to restore ungulate numbers in tiger habitat.

- Develop concepts that reform the regional hunting industry and implement case studies on the model hunting leases. The main principles should be:
> Long term (15 year minimum) leases of hunting territories, both collectively and for individuals.
> Develop and implement a system of norms creating conditions that make hunters interested in having a tiger located on leased lands.
> Limits on timber harvest at long term hunting leases and unconditional government guarantees of compliance by primary land users and timber leaseholders.
> Shifting sport and amateur hunting enterprises to an intensive basis.
> Shifting professional hunters from the use of just a small range of limited resources to the use of a broad range of biological resources available on a leased territory.

- Elaborate for model hunting leases the management plans and implement the best practices in wise use of ungulates.

- Implement model projects that optimize hunting societies in tiger habitat with the goal of improving the prey base for the species and to better satisfy the needs of the local population.

- Conduct the experiments in biotechnical measures to increase the ungulates populations in tiger habitats.

- Disseminate the experience of model hunting leases: publish booklet, conduct seminars and exchange programmes.

- Introduce a ban on hunting ungulates in reproduction zones or in areas where their numbers have dramatically declined.

- Conduct the promotion campaign to support the program and educate the hunters and wildlife managers.

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