New corridor links Amur tiger habitats in Russia and China
The 72,700-hectare Sredneussuriisky (Sredne-Ussuriiskii) Wildlife Refuge in Primorsky Province, located on the Russia-China border, links Russia’s Skhote-Alin mountain range with China’s Wandashan mountain, which are both critical Amur tiger habitats. The Refuge’s southern part is also the unique nesting ground of the Oriental stork. Up to 17 pairs of storks, or 2.5% the global population of this endangered species, nest on 20,0000 hectares of suitable wetlands in the Refuge.
With the establishment of this important ecological corridor, Russia has fulfilled another of its commitment on tiger conservation made in 2010 at the International Tiger Conservation Forum in St. Petersburg. Russia along with the other 12 tiger range countries had committed to doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022 at the Forum, which is also known as the Tiger Summit. They also agreed on the Global Tiger Recovery Program, which is an amalgamation of national tiger conservation actions and global targets.
The creation of Sredne-Ussuriiskii Wildlife Refuge was included in Russia’s National Action Plan for Amur Tiger conservation, which had been developed with WWF Russia’s input. Some measures of the Action Plan have already been undertaken. These included the ban on harvesting of Korean pine trees and upgrading of penalties for wildlife contraband.
“A year and a half ago, together with the public, we resisted the attempts of the timber industry to enter this area and start commercial logging,” said Igor Chestin, CEO of WWF Russia. “The establishment of the Sredne-Ussuriiskii Wildlife Refuge is our joint victory and we are grateful to all our supporters for defending the forests of the Russian Amazon. The tigers of Russia and China now have an additional new home.”
Vladimir Miklushevsky, Governor of Primorsky Province, signed the decree for establishing the Sredne-Ussuriiskii Wildlife Refuge on 18 October 2012. Together with the 40,000-hectare Pozharskaya Korean pine nut harvesting zone, they play a key role in Amur tiger conservation. These unique broadleaved pine forests in the Strelnikov mountain range are the only ecological corridor connecting tiger populations in Russia and China.
“Establishment of Sredne-Ussuriiskii Wildlife Refuge is key in transboundary tiger conservation efforts between Russia and China,” said Yury Darman, director of WWF Russia Amur branch. “Without this Refuge, it is impossible to restore tiger population in China and provide for the tiger's existence in the north of Primorsky Province. It is an important step and just the beginning. We need to forever exclude the Pozharskaya Korean pine nut harvesting zone from commercial logging and transfer the lease to local residents for gathering non-timber forest products.”
Pozharskaya is an important area for both local people and tigers. WWF is of the view that an amendment to Russia's Forest Code should be introduced for all pine nut harvesting zones within the Amur tiger range to not lease them out, but to allow them to serve their main purpose, namely that of sustaining ecosystem services and gathering of non-timber forest products by local people.