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African swine fever knocks on Amur tiger’s door

01 november 2018
Primorsky Province develops precautions against a possible introduction of ASF from the neighboring China. Conservation organizations and scientific society cognize that the depopulation of wild boars in the Amur tiger habitat will become a tragedy.

On October 20 at a meeting held by the Primorsky Province State Veterinary Service a possible nosogeny of ASF in the neighboring China was discussed. What measures have to be taken to prevent the dangerous disease from coming to Primorye, what monitoring methods to use, and what procedure to follow to combat this infection was on the agenda.

According to the urgent notification sent to the International Epizootic Bureau, on August 1, a focus of ASF among domestic pigs in the Liaoning Province, China, was revealed. On September 14, another ASF focus was found in Inner Mongolia.  By October 19, 45 ASF focuses among domestic pigs in 9 China provinces were registered with one in the neighboring to Primorye Heilongjiang Province.

ASF if comes to the Russian Far East can poses a huge threat both to domestic pigs and wild boars, the main prey for Amur tigers making 50% in their diet. Wildlife conservation organizations emphasize that the depopulation of wild boar must be prevented by all means.

Wild boar - main prey for the Amur tiger
Ola Jennersten / WWF
«We understand that a significant loss of wild boars can cause lots of conflicts between tigers and humans due to lack of prey. So not to let the tiger feel hungry, if ASF comes to Primorye, we will have to increase the number of other prey, primarily deer. There are well-proven methods for ungulates management and we should get ready to use them right away to prevent the crisis,” notes Pavel Fomenko, head of Rare Species Conservation Unit at WWF-Russia Amur branch, Honorable Worker of Nature Conservation in Russia.
“The analysis of chronology and geography of ASF spreading has revealed the rapid virus spreading on the long distances, the absence of any connections between the focuses of the decease, connection with main transport routes, the appearance of outbreaks in the areas not inhabited by wild boar, and even at the isolated pig breeding farms. All these factors testify that the ASF spread has anthropogenic character and is the result of uncontrolled transporting of infected objects and products of them. We consider that efficient measures preventing the introduction of ASF should include the ban on free pasturing of domestic pigs, construction of protective fence around pig breeding farms and placing animal scaring devices around the perimeter, introduction of the ban on wild boar meat trade by individuals with the introduction of punishment in case of violation, introduction of restricted hunting on wild boar. With this, the interference into wild board population should be limited. Let’s recall that the wild boar is the main prey for the Amur tiger as well as the main hunting object for local people”. – comments Sergei Aramilev, director of the Amur Tiger Center.
Amur tiger - "shepherd" of wild boar
Bikin National Park / WWF Russia / Amur Tiger Center
Over 15 years WWF Russia together with hunting leases of Primorsky and Khabarovsky Provinces have been implementing the methods to increase ungulate numbers. The construction of six supplementary feeding complexes for deer has been launched this year in three model hunting leases. This experience can be replicated by other hunting leases within the Amir tiger range. For the last five years the work on supplementary feeding of ungulates and their vaccination as well as the creation of the reserve forage fund is carried out jointly by WWF Russia, the Amur Tiger Centre and the Primorsky Province Wildlife Department.  Under the threat of ASF the Primorsky Province Wildlife Department is in charge of controlling the situation with wild boar in the forest.
Deer at supplementary feeding site in the model hunting lease
Elena Starostina / WWF Russia
“The Wildlife Department has already conducted three meetings on ASF preventing measures with hunting leasers. All users of game resources especially in border areas are informed about the actions in case of encountering dead animals. All rangers and hunters have been instructed which actions to take to minimize the disease spreading if any sign of it is detected. The wellbeing of predators depends on wild boars number as well as the relations between predators and humans. We will fight jointly for the survival of wild animals in our taiga”, comments Dmitry Pankratov, head of the Primorsky Province Wildlife Department.

Conservation of the Amur tiger in the Russian Far East is supported by the Amur Tiger Centre and WWF Russia.

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