Training of experienced rangers is one of the key conditions for successful tiger survey
Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces are preparing for the Amur tiger full range survey, which will take place in winter 2014/2015. The survey is organized and conducted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, its subordinate bodies – nature reserves and national parks, the Administration of Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces with the support of ANO “Amur Tiger”, WWF Russia and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
“The full range survey is held once every 10 years and allows us to estimate the current condition of the Amur tiger population. About 2000 rangers come out to the routes measuring tiger tracks. This is a difficult, time-consuming and large-scale work, the quality and the results depend on the people who will carry out the survey using the same methodology. Therefore, one of the tasks at this stage is the selection and training of qualified rangers”- says Pavel Fomenko, Species program coordinator of WWF Russia Amur Branch, one of the coordinators of the Amur tiger census.
15 rangers of the national park took part in the field training. Each of them already have experience of working in the forest, but the full range survey requires verification of knowledge, precise coordination with each other and accurate identification of the tracks. There are other predators besides tiger living in Southwest Primorye such as Amur leopard, lynx, and wolf. It makes the tracks identification more complicated. Therefore, during the training the inspectors not only worked through pages of «Diary of a record-keeper», which they will fill in on the rout, but also learned to distinguish and correctly measure the tracks of animals that may be encountered along the route. For this purpose the plaster casts of wolf, lynx and leopard footprints were made with the help of real zoo animals.
“In order to distinguish one track from another, the system of measurement was developed and tested in practice. Correct measurement allows identifying if it was a male or female, young or mature animal. Then the ranger determines the freshness of the track and its direction. In short, you have to learn a lot not to count the same tiger twice,'- says Pavel Fomenko, training leader.
Southwestern Primorye is the only part of Russia, which is home to two rare cat subspecies - the Amur tiger and Amur leopard. Therefore, during full range survey-2015 both tiger and leopard will be counted on the territory of «Land of the Leopard» National Park.
«For our employees have a special task during the survey, since the national park lives the bulk of the population of the Far Eastern leopard, - says Elena Salmanova, deputy director of the “Land of the Leopard” National Park. - In addition, the records allow to determine the number of ungulates in the territory of the National Park at this point, it is necessary for our work.»
According to camera trap monitoring data, the number of tigers in the «Land of the Leopard» National Park has increased significantly and is already about 20 individuals, although 10 years ago there were 3-5 individuals. The full range survey will tell the exact numbers of the Amur tiger and Amur leopard.
“Despite the fact that almost the entire territory of the “Land of Leopard” National Park is now covered with camera traps, the method of counting footprints in the snow remains for us a necessary one, because it gives the opportunity to reveal the dynamics leopard and tiger numbers in comparison with indicators of 1970s', - says Elena Salmanova.
At present, the tiger home range in the Far East of Russia is distributed between 23 coordinators, who have nearly completed the preparatory stage and began to collect data about the tigers movement during the season.