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New threat to the Amur tigers

10 september 2019
African swine fever was registered in one of the farms in Pogranichny district. The Primorsky Administration declared the regime of emergency in the area and quarantine within 100 kilometers radius from the outbreak. WWF warns that methods used in the European part of Russia to prevent ASF epizootics are not applicable in the Amur tiger habitats.

On July 31, 2019, dead domestic pigs were found in one of the farms located almost on the border with China. Animals were kept there against veterinary standards. This is the first case of the detecting African plague virus in the Russian Far East. In early September, 16 outbreaks have already been officially recorded from Primorsky to Amurskaya provinces. All episodes of the disease except one occurred on farms, and only one among the wild boar population.

This fact testifies, that the main distributors are domestic animals and the materials that are used in domestic pig farming. Wild boar is a “victim” in this situation.

Wild boar - main prey for the Amur tiger
Cameratrap in Sinegorye hunting estate
“Two years ago, when we heard the first news that this infection spread beyond the Ural ridge, and then appeared in China, veterinarian experts stated that the arrival of ASF in the Russian Far East is only a matter of time,” says Pavel Fomenko, head of rare species conservation unit at WWF-Russia Amur Branch. – Today is the moment when the time has come... In fact, the virus is most likely invading and spreading by everyday way: “on wheels”, “on wings”, in luggage and bags, with food and any other goods transported by private individuals, tourists and agricultural producers. So there is a reason for pessimism.”

The Primorsky Administration has approved a detailed comprehensive plan to eliminate the further spread of the virus throughout the region which is already being implemented. 

“The Primorsky Wildlife Management Department is making every effort to identify outbreaks of African swine fever among the wild boar population,” said Dmitry Pankratov, director of the Primorsky Wildlife Management Department. – State inspectors together with game keepers conduct daily monitoring of hunting grounds. A decision was made to regulate the number of wild boars in Pogranichny district. Samples obtained are immediately sent for examination to the veterinary laboratory. Recommendations are given to local authorities on methods to combat the disease. We do everything in our power to reduce the damage to the wildlife, because the state of predators population such as tiger and leopard depends on the state of the population of wild ungulates.”
Red deer in model hunting estate in Primorsky
Cameratrap in Bain hunting estate

In the quarantine zone, the transporting, purchase of pigs, and trade in pork are prohibited, except manufactured products; traffic police and veterinary control posts have been established. According to the Primorsky Administration press service, one of the outbreaks of the disease is localized.

“Unfortunately, the method to combat the spread of the disease adopted in the European part of Russia, is not applicable for the Far East,” says Pavel Fomenko. - The method is quite simple, especially on paper - depopulation, that means bringing the wild boar numbers to minimum. But we all perfectly understand that our large predators - tiger and leopard, both species of bears, the lynx - depend on the wild boar. The hunting economy of the region depends on the well-being of wild pigs. And total depopulation in our conditions is not an option. In my opinion, now we need to look further than the fight against the further spread of the disease. We have to be prepared for the conditions of low wild boar numbers with all the coming consequences: increased conflict situations with predators, reduced profitability of hunting farms and, as a result, increased poaching and legal press for hunting on other ungulate species.”
Amur tigers face a new threat
Cameratrap in Bikin National Park

For many years WWF Russia has been practicing methods for increasing the number of ungulate species alternative to wild boar such as sika deer and roe deer in the model hunting farms in Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces. In the case of a serious drop in the wild boar number, our rare large cats, the tiger and leopard can switch to them. However, this measure is not enough. WWF Russia experts believe that it is necessary to elaborate a Strategy for hunting management development and introduce methods to increase alternative to wild boar species throughout the Amur tiger range. And this is only possible with support of the government and additional funding.

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