Deer finding documents success of prey recovery program for endangered Amur tigers and leopards
The body of the dead sika deer was discovered by a ranger of Lanjia forest farm, located at the east foot of the Changbai Mountain, one of WWF’s Tigers Alive Initiative's landscapes, in China’s northeastern Jilin Province.
The deer’s injuries were consistent with an attack by a large predator, conservation officers said. The finding comes two months after some four sika deer were killed by predator from a scene one kilometre away.
The latest victim was among a group of more than 30 captive-bred red and sika deer that were released in July 2012 by WWF and Wangqing nature reserve administration in the hope of restoring prey population to attract Amur tigers and leopards in the Wangqing area. It was confirmed to be from the released herd according to the chip implanted into its ear.
The body was barely consumed, indicating that the predator left the scene, possibly because of disturbance, according to Shi Quanhua, a WWF Amur Tiger Programme Officer. A camera trap has been set up nearby in order to identify the predator in case it comes back for the prey.
“Again, it proves that big cats like tigers or leopards do live in Wangqing’s forests and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau has yielded impressive results at the demonstration project of the wild Amur tiger and leopard habitat ecosystem,” Shi said.
Meanwhile, a large number of feces, hairs and constant beds were found on the site proving the spot to be a place frequented by a herd of sika deer, which indirectly demonstrates that the released sika deer of last year have survived the winter.
“Despite heavy snows in the passing winter, none of the released deer died of coldness, hunger or illness, but only by predators,” Shi said.
Amur tigers and leopards have been recorded more frequently by WWF and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau during patrolling and monitoring since winter.
“At Lanjia forest farm alone, we have captured photographs and videos over 20 times, which is three times more than those of the last three years.
"This indicates that the prey recovery project has made preliminary progress and it has been proved to be very important for the survival and settlement of Amur tigers and leopards in Wangqing,” says Wang Fuyou, Director of the Conservation Division of the Wangqing Forestry Bureau.
“That said the density of sika and red deer in this area is still very low. Through the prey recovery project, WWF looks to establish a self-recovery red and sika deer population there, so as to provide sufficient food for wild Amur tigers and leopards as well as realize their settlement and reproduction habitat,” said Zhu Jiang, head of WWF Northeast China Office.
A WWF-backed survey shows that the lack of prey is a major hurdle in supporting the settlement of tigers in Northeast China.
The wild tiger population declined from an estimated 200 to about 20 today within the past five decades in China. The adjacent forested habitat of the Russian Far East holds a significantly larger population, between 430-500 tigers.
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.
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.