Prey for China’s endangered wild Amur tigers released on Global Tiger Day

Posted on July, 29 2012

A new recovery project in Northeast China is helping repopulate an important tiger habitat with desirable prey, giving the country’s endangered wild Amur tigers plenty to celebrate on Global Tiger Day.
Wangqing, China – Over 30 captive-bred red and sika deer have been released into the wild in Northeast China’s Wangqing Nature Reserve to help repopulate the area with desirable prey, giving the country’s endangered wild Amur tigers plenty to celebrate on Global Tiger Day.

The release is part of a tiger recovery trial project run by WWF, the Jilin Provincial Forestry Department and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau and represents a crucial first step in providing the living conditions Amur tigers need to thrive in the reserve’s rugged Changbaishan area. 

“There is very little prey for the 20 Amur tigers now living in Changbaishan, and this limits their numbers in China. Increasing the breeding population of the prey will help attract more Amur Tigers in the long run,” said Fan Zhiyong, Director of WWF China’s species programme.  

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. Many of Asia’s forests are already considered ‘empty’, with many trees but few animals.

Fifty years of decline

Over the past fifty years, the population of wild Amur tigers in Northeast China has declined from an estimated 200 to 20 today, due to massive pressure from deforestation, economic development, and poaching.

There are an estimated 450 Amur tigers now living in the Russian Far East, but recent sightings show that the population is slowly moving across the Chinese border and into the country’s Wandashan and Changbaishan mountains, part of the Wangqing Nature Reserve.

However, 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 Changbaishan area - especially favored prey such as red deer and sika deer - is too low to support the recovery of the Amur tiger population.

“Density of red deer and wild boar, for example, is only 0.3 per square kilometer, less than half the number in neighboring Russia. The low prey density in China means it would be extremely difficult for the area’s forests to support the recovery of the tiger population,” said Dr. Zhu Jiang, Head of WWF China’s Northeast Office. 

“Part of the solution is to increase the stock of available prey. We’re also working on habitat restoration, and stepping up monitoring to stop poaching,” noted Dr. Zhu. “This initial trial will help create the conditions needed to support the survival of at least one female tiger within the Wangqing Nature Reserve.”

For further information:

Zeng Ming (曾铭), Head of Press, WWF China, +86 10 6511 6298,
This recent camera trap photo captured an Amur tiger in the Changbaishan area, offering compelling evidence that the endangered big cats are increasingly moving back into China from the Russian Far East.
© Peking University/WWF-China/Sun Ge
Distribution of the Amur leopard.
Distribution of Amur tigers and leopards in China and the Russian Far East.
WWF staff examines a deer before it is released into the wild in Northeast China's Wangqing Nature Reserve.
© WWF China