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The Amur-Heilong is the biggest river in Northeast Asia, and one of the biggest free-flowing rivers of the world. It flows through China, Mongolia and Russia and originates from two sources – one in the north and one in the south. The northern source is the Onon River in Mongolia and the southern source is the Argun River, which drains the western slope of Da Xing’an Mountains in China. With 4.444 kilometer in length the Amur ranks among the ten longest rivers in the world. Its basin covers a total area of more than two million square kilometers and includes ecoregions of planetary importance for biodiversity conservation. WWF calls this unique set of ecoregions the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion Complex (AHEC).
The Amur River is one of the longest rivers in Asia, flowing thousands of kilometres from the steppes of Mongolia through the untamed wilderness of China and Russia and ending at the Strait of Tartary where it empties into the Pacific Ocean.
With fewer than 35 left in the wild, the reclusive Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), also known as the Far East leopard, is considered one of the world’s most endangered big cats. Found mostly in the forests of Russia’s southwestern Primorskii Province, WWF is working to bring this species back from the brink of extinction.
The Amur tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Siberian tiger, is another cat species under threat. Although their numbers have increased from about 40 to 500 – thanks to vigorous conservation efforts – poaching and increased logging continue to affect their chances of survival.
Habitat loss, logging, pollution and trade in other endangered wildlife all threaten the health of the entire Amur-Heilong area.
WWF is working with partners in Russia, China and Mongolia to achieve lasting conservation throughout the region. This includes programmes to reduce poaching, curb unsustainable and illegal logging, and protect key species through the creation of protected areas.
Major successes include:
Partnering with the government of Mongolia to establish the Onon-Balj National Park at the headwaters of the Amur- Heilong
Brief history of international conservation in the Amur Heilong
WWF started its work in the Russian Far East and Eastern Mongolia in 1994, at that time with separate projects devoted mostly to charismatic species. With growing environmental threats brought by the shift
to market economies in the countries of the basin, scientists and conservationists understood that conservation efforts for the basin requested a transboundary approach. The construction of dams and border fences and the conversion of wetland to agricultural land in one country would inevitably affect the ecological integrity of ecosystems and the survival of species in the neighbouring country.
But it was only after 2000, when WWF had formulated the principles of an Ecoregion Based Approach in order
to embed Amur-Heilong in the top 30 worldwide priority WWF places for biodiversity conservation, like Amazon, Congo or Yangtze. With financial and technical support provided by WWF Netherlands, WWF
Germany and WWF USA the ecoregion-based planning was finished in 2002 and the Conservation Action Plan for Russian part was developed in cooperation with leading NGOs. The elaboration of the publication “Amur Heilong River Basin Reader” provided the scientific background for uniting projects into a large transboundary program under a 10 year strategic plan. As of 2006 three regional implementing WWF offices have worked under this plan: WWF Russia Amur Branch in Vladivostok, WWF China – Northeast China Office in Changchun, and WWF Mongolia field office in Dadal.
The history of conservation for the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion is closely connected with its’ initiator and developer – Dr.Yury Darman, who had been director of the Amur branch of WWF Russia for 17 years until 2016. Yury managed to coordinate and unite efforts of leading scientists and experts to conduct biodiversity and socio-economic assessments of Amur-Heilong, and to elaborate the long-term and visionary Conservation Action Plan, which became the road map for leading NGOs and basis for provincial official land use plans. One of his major achievements is the expansion of the network of nature protected areas by 7.4 million hectares. Yury is the author and co-author of 238 papers, including nine monographs. He is a Chair of Russian Working Group on Oriental stork and Honorable Member of Global Tiger Forum. In 2016, Yury Darman received the MIDORY Prize - the highest international award in biodiversity conservation by the CBD Secretariat of
Convention on Biodiversity and AEON environmental Foundation.
Even after retirement Yury remains a demanded conservation expert for WWF and others, and makes a strong
pledge to continue our efforts.
“We are here on the front line trying to conserve for mankind one of the last islands of wilderness. It is not easy to live and to work here, not because of frost and snow, mosquitoes and ticks, roadless and impassable ridges – all of us are
outdoorsmen- and women. But sometimes we give way to despair because of the incomprehension of authorities, ignorance of local citizens, collapse of some long-term efforts. It is the continued moral and financial support of the many WWF members that gives us the feeling that we are the important mesh within in a great environmental organization. And it is in this spirit we need to continue.”
Amur Info Center
The Amur Information Center is a specialized web portal for granting all interested organizations and persons free access to geographical data, reference information, expert opinions, reports, multimedia archives and other data on the Amur-Heilong Ecoregion.