Amur tigers gaining ground in northeast China

Posted on 15 November 2010  | 
Beijing, China - WWF’s newest recommendations on protecting wild Amur tigers in China’s northeast show the huge potential the area has to support one of the world’s most iconic and endangered species.
Recommendations on China’s Amur Tiger Protection Plan is based on a recent  study on the potential tiger habitat in the Changbaishan areas of Northeast China, which borders the Russian Far East and North Korea. The study, a joint work of WWF, WSC, and experts from Northeast Normal University of China, KORA and University of Montana was released early this year.

Amur tiger numbers could now be as high as 500

The study suggests that effective protection measures over the past 50 years has helped the Amur tiger bounce back in the Russian Far East, boosting the population to 430-500 today, which makes it possible for Amur tigers to migrate into neighboring China.
The study says that large tracts of forest in Changbaishan and other areas of Northeast China can support the migrating tigers and provide the conditions necessary to maintain tiger habitat and prey over the long term.
Approximately 38,500 km 2 of potential tiger habitat remains in the Changbaishan landscape. The study divides this into nine Tiger Conservation Priority Areas (TPAs), which consist of prime habitat surrounded and connected by lower quality forest that allows movement between patches. These connections ensure breeding population of tigers have access to what they need to survive.

In addition to the nine TPAs, the recommendations also identify a new TPA in the Wandashan region, another key area for tigers in Northeast China. Meanwhile, Xiaoxinganling - also in the northeast - is recommended as an area that warrants further study as a potential home for Amur tigers.

For each priority area, WWF proposes detailed and practical protection and recovery approaches including
  • Establishing new nature reserves & expanding and improving existing ones;
  • Establishing ecological corridors between large patches of potential tiger habitat to facilitate the movement of tiger population;
  • Improving habitat and prey quality and quantity,
  • Promoting tiger-friendly forest management;
  • Monitoring tigers, prey and habitat, and reintroducing prey species;
  • Developing alternative livelihoods to reduce the potential impact of tiger conservation on local communities.
The recommendations also set a goal of protecting 40,000 km 2 of tiger habitat and 50 tigers in China by 2020.
“Without immediate, strong action, the next few years will be catastrophic for wild tigers, and leave the species beyond recovery,” says Dr. Zhu Chunquan, WWF China Conservation Director of Biodiversity.

“The recommendations are based on solid scientific research and are extremely important for Amur tiger protection field work,” Dr. Zhu added.

Maintaining the momentum of Amur Tiger protection before the Tiger Summit, which will be held in St. Petersburg from 21 – 24 November, WWF China had also established WWF-China Amur Tiger Expert Committee chaired by Ma Jianzhang, academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering on October 17.

The new recommendations represent a joint collaboration by WWF and experts from China’s Northeast Forestry University, Jilin Provincial Academy of Forestry Sciences and Northeast Normal University.  WWF hopes that it will serve as an important reference for wild Amur tiger protection policy-making and can be incorporated into Chinese government’s wild Amur tiger protection plans.
There are only about 450 Amur tigers living in the southern Amur-Ussuri region of Russia’s Primorski and Khabarovski Krais provinces, with a few found across the border in northern China and Korea.
© WWF-Canon / Vladimir Filonov Enlarge
The Amur tiger is the largest of the five remaining tiger species.
The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is the largest of the five remaining tiger species.
© WWF Russia / Vasilii Solkin Enlarge

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