Three species were initially selected as focal flagspecies for Amur-Heilong Ecoregional Complex. One of them, Amur tiger has for a long time been a priority of WWF family. This subspecies has disappeared from most habitats in Northeast China, surviving only in Wandashan (Heilongjiang Province) and Changbaishan (Jilin Province). So, it needs for transboundary cooperation between WWF RFE and WWF CPO to protect last bordering habitats.
Much more collaboration needs to save Far Eastern leopard, the most endangered subspecies of large cat in the World (about 40 animals in total). It inhabits last forests at the border between Russian Southwestern Primorskii Province, Chinese Hunchun County and Northern Hamgen (North Korea).
The Oriental white stork is the recognized symbol of Amur/Heilong wetlands, because the last 400 pairs nest only here on the border between Russia and China along main channels of Amur and Ussury Rivers forming the border between two nations.
Viable populations of focal species must be created to ensure their long-term persistence. In turn protection of focal species and their habitats will guarantee conservation of an entire array of plant and animal diversity in the AHEC. The “Species module” includes mostly policy activities connected with species conservation, which can’t be covered within other modules of program (law enforcement, habitat protection, communication, etc).
The selected indicators for Species Module are:
• Create and maintain a genetically viable population of at least 200 breeding female tigers (about 500 tigers in all) over an extended range;
• Enlarge and maintain a genetically viable population of at least 50 Far Eastern leopards;
• Sustain a viable population of at least 500 nesting pairs of Oriental white storks.
Due to the efforts of governmental and non-governmental organizations, the population of Amur tiger is rather stable in Russian Far East as it was shown by the large-scale census in February 2005 (total 429-530 tigers). The Conservation strategy for Amur tiger in Russia was elaborated with WWF support in 1996 and officially approved by Russian Government, but the institutional and financial mechanism for long-term persistence of sub-species has not been formed. In Russia WWF should emphasize on resolution of human-tiger conflicts and on increasing of prey base.
In Northeast China, main task is to keep connectivity of tiger and leopard habitats with main area in RFE, improve the management of existing protected areas, including anti-poaching patrolling, snare removal activities, staff training, etc. A unified monitoring methodology needs to be developed with the expertise from both China and Russia, mainly researches and protected areas staffs. This task should be implemented in cooperation with WCS. We should try to establish new nature reserve in Laoyeling and Wandashan, elaborating background materials and lobbying the process. But in current conditions, tiger habitat protection relies more on stakeholders out of the PA system. It consists of three main components: development land using (logging) plans on the territories of forest industrial bureaus, which incorporate the tiger and leopards environmental requirements, delineate the most important habitats as HCVF with logging restrictions, push logging companies to clean up their tenancy from snares and poachers. The result should be the tiger-friendly certification in their main habitats.
Survival of Amur leopard is threatened by poaching, decrease of population of hoofed animals – their basic prey, and destruction of Land of Leopard as the result of human activity. In order to save the rarest spotted cat, WWF takes measures to prevent forest fires in conifer and broadleaf forests in leopard habitat; helps hunting estates by supporting the system of response to heavy snowfalls and epizootics to prevent ungulate mass mortality.
Annual camera traps monitoring helps to follow up the fate of each leopard and conduct measures for its individual protection.
In cooperation with partner organizations WWF plans to develop joint program for Oriental white stork restoration; support "Nest Keepers" movement, do annual monitoring of accessible nests, support experiments on establishing of artificial nests, prepare proposals for International strategy for Oriental white stork conservation; conduct census of Oriental stork in 2010 in Russia and China.