Wild ungulates of the southern Sikhote-Alin counted from the air
In winter the animals are very clearly seen from the helicopter. This is why aerial survey is considered to be one of the most reliable methods to count ungulates. First aerial surveys in the southern Sikhote-Alin, which is the priority territory for conservation of the Amur tiger and its prey base in Primorye, were initiated by WWF Russia and carried out in 2004 and in 2009. This year’s mission is of a high importance as soon the Amur Leopard Reintroduction Program will be launched. This rarest cat will be brought back into the area it inhabited in the beginning of the last century.
“This will be the third time for us to carry out this work on the model territories including protected areas of the eastern slope of Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range and adjacent hunting leases which are vitally important for Amur tiger conservation. Our joint conservation efforts have already ensured a good basis for the successful implementation of the Amur Leopard Reintroduction Program on this territory. The data of the last aerial survey carried out seven years ago proved high numbers of all ungulate species roaming here. This is definitely the achievement of rangers of protected areas and Primorsky Province Hunting Department. I hope this time we’ll see from the air plenty of ungulates which is enough for peaceful coexistence of big predators and proper hunters”, comments Pavel Fomenko, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at WWF Russia Amur Branch, an honored worker of nature conservation of Russian Federation.
The southern Sikhote-Alin is home to 1/6 part of the Amur tiger population. This is the area with the unique landscapes, with abundant vegetation and wild animals, and the protected areas established to save and conserve these resources like Lazovsky Nature Reserve, Zov Tigra National Park, and Vasilkovsky Regional Refuge. Medved, Yuzhnaya Dolina, and Barkhat hunting societies located in the close proximity to the protected areas for 15 years have been investing efforts into wild ungulates management and anti-poaching. In many respects the activities of these societies are based on the data received during aerial surveys.
As Sergei Aramilev, head of the Amur Tiger Center, notes, “The knowledge on what is going on with wild ungulates populations is not less important than the data on the status of the Amur tiger. Unfortunately, the information on wild ungulates collected during the last winter tiger census provides us with a general idea on the tendencies occurring among the hoofed animals. Therefore, we regard this aerial survey as a logical continuation of the tiger census that compliments its data with important information on the tiger prey base. Using helicopters is the quickest and easier way to get this information. It will take only 4-5 days to cover 60 plots instead of 60 days if to do it on foot.”
The participants of the survey consider this work to be timely as the number of ungulates varies from year to year and the latest data were received seven years ago.