Photos document success of prey recovery program for endangered Amur tigers
The images mark a major progress in the effort to boost prey population for endangered wild Amur tigers, part of a tiger recovery trial project run by WWF China, the Jilin Provincial Forestry Department and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau.
Three individuals, among a group of five deer that were captured in photos and a short video clip, were identified as captive-bred red deer. Another was believed to be wild, but the remaining deer could not be identified due to its position in the pictures.
"This is an indication that the released deer have settled in the wild," said Shi Quanhua, a programme officer at WWF China's Northeast field office who is in charge of repopulating the prey for Amur tigers.
“The merger of captive-bred deer with wild group is conducive to population growth in the wild. It will also increase the generic diversity of the wild deer, whose density has been extremely low, enhance the population dynamics and eventually accelerate the wild population recovery,” said Shi.
More than 30 hand-picked captive-bred red and sika deer were released into the wild in Wangqing on July 29 - Global Tiger Day - to help repopulate the area with desirable prey for Amur tigers.
No space, no food for China’s tigers
Habitat degradation, deforestation, poaching and a small prey base in the country’s northeast have led the wild tiger population to decline from an estimated 200 to about 20 today within the past five decades. Wild Amur tigers in China are mostly confined to the Changbai Mountains area in Jilin Province and Wanda Mountains in Heilongjiang Province.
The adjacent forested habitat of the Russian Far East holds a significantly larger population, between 430-500 tigers.
But recent sightings show that the population is slowly moving across the Chinese border and into the country’s Wanda and Changbai mountains, part of the Wangqing Nature Reserve.
A recent WWF-backed survey shows that the lack of prey is a major hurdle in supporting the settlement of tigers in Northeast China. The same survey shows that the number of ungulate animals in the Changbai area - especially favored prey such as red deer and sika deer - is too low to support the recovery of the Amur tiger population.
"The future of Amur tigers can only be secured if its prey population is given time to recover. That’s the crucial first step," said Dr. Zhu Jiang, head of WWF-China’s Northeast Programme Office.
“The images show that it is possible to increase the prey stock by releasing captive-bred deer into the wild. As the trial project develops, WWF China is keen to promote the model across the entire Changbai Mountains area to accelerate the restoration of a healthy and complete ecological system. That would contribute to the efforts toward the goal of doubling the population of wild Amur tigers by 2020,” said Zhu.
Deputy director of the Wangqing Forestry Bureau, Tang Lijun, said the authority is to strengthen law enforcement on wildlife protection and enhance its cooperation with WWF China, especially on exploration on recovery of ungulate animals’ population, as part of its commitment to providing better living conditions for Amur tigers.
WWF-China and its partners are carrying out a number of conservation measures to save the Amur tiger. These include helping ungulate populations such as wild boar and roe deer to recover; stopping poaching by helping local authorities carry out anti-poaching activities; and increasing and connecting protected tiger habitats so tigers can safely move from one area to another.
One tiger needs to eat the equivalent of a medium size deer every week to survive and without adequate food, the tiger population rapidly declines.
For more information please contact:
Qiu Wei, Senior Communications Officer, WWF China, firstname.lastname@example.org, +86 10 6511 6272