Tiger monitoring results: Not catastrophic, but still cause for concern
Amur tiger monitoring working group under supervision of the Wildlife and Hunting Management Department of Primorsky province has discussed the results of tiger monitoring conducted in winter 2010. We would like to remind, that the results of last monitoring (2009) had registered the lowest density level of tiger tracks over the whole 13-year history of monitoring and, undoubtedly, provoked a serious concern of specialists of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, NGOs and specially authorized bodies. In this situation the next monitoring on the model plots was very important to realize the true situation and to make timely decisions.
In this situation, for the first time, the specialists of the Wildlife and Hunting Management Department of Primorsky province took the responsibility of the supervision over the implementation of an important field work and strict compliance with the monitoring methodology on the monitoring plots located within hunting estates, while the Special Inspection “Tiger” monitored strictly nature protected areas. Specialists checked about 250 routs, having inspected the area of 23,555 km² (15-18% of the total tiger habitat). In Khabarovsky province a part of activities was financed by provincial Government, the other part of financial support both in Khabarovsky and Primorsky provinces was provided by WWF.
As it was assumed, the gained data on density of tiger tracks is considerably higher than the density registered last year and can be compared with the monitoring results of 2007. Specialists explain such discrepancy in numbers by the fact that exceptionally heavy snowfalls in north-western part of Primorye in 2009 did not allow to count tigers and ungulates fully. Track density of ungulates – the main tiger prey – was also registered to be at the level of 2007.
However, in general, the specialists of the Wildlife and Hunting Management Department, Special Inspection “Tiger”, WCS and WWF came to a consistent opinion – there is a tendency of a decrease of Amur tiger tracks density.
“The monitoring, as well as in previous years, was conducted on 16 plots located in Khabarovsky and Primorsky provinces. As it was assumed by WWF-Russia experts this year we observe somewhat different situation than in the past. Generally speaking, tiger numbers within recent four years is relatively stable, without taking into consideration the data of the last year, when there were external and internal reasons having influenced the final data, - comments Sergey Aramilev, coordinator of biodiversity conservation projects of WWF-Russia Amur branch. - In spite of good results the situation remains alarming. On the whole, over the all time of research there is an observable tendency of a slow decrease in tiger numbers on the monitoring plots. Primarily, it happens due to the number of problems, and most of them are not solved until now: degradation of habitat, logging Korean pine and mature stands of Mongolian oak, inadequate legislation in part of wildlife and hunting management and tiger protection, as well as the lack of an effective law against “black” trade of tiger derivatives, absence of a rehabilitation center and many others. It is necessary to implement the recommendations prepared by WWF-Russia to change this tendency. Our common goal is to do everything possible by the next tiger census in 2015 so the tiger numbers remain not less than 500 individuals within the whole tiger home range.”
The working group paid great attention to the discussion of improvement of the monitoring methodology and working out of the counting algorithm which excludes the subjective opinion of field specialists.