Russian-German partnership on the Bikin River for the benefit of the Amur Tiger
Tiger conservation problem will bring together representatives of environmental state agencies and NGOs of the two countries: the Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany (BMU), the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of Russian Federation, the Federal Forestry Agency of Russia, German KfW Development Bank, WWF-Germany and WWF-Russia. They will discuss new approaches in tiger conservation developed during the two-year cooperation on the on-going WWF project titled «Mitigate impacts of climate change through the protection of large scale virgin forests in the Bikin River valley».
“Russia and Germany support the project at the highest level and it has already drawn wide public attention. The Bikin River valley is the largest block of Korean pine-broadleaved forests in the Northern Hemisphere, and is worth to be listed as UNESCO World Heritage site”, says Yury Darman, head of WWF-Russia Amur branch. “The Bikin valley constitutes 10% of the Amur tiger habitat and safeguards traditional lifestyle of half of the Udege indigenous people. The project supported by the German Government is a real major investment in tiger conservation in the world, and therefore can be considered as a model project at the Tiger Forum”.
The project started in 2008, when WWF prepared documents for long-term non-timber forest use of an area in the Middle Bikin River, which includes the Bikin pine-nut harvesting zone, spawning protection zone, and river bank protection zone. WWF partner - community of Udege indigenous people “Tiger” took on responsibilities for projection of this area from poaching and illegal logging. In May 2009, at an auction, more than 460 thousand ha of pine-broadleaved forests were leased to the “Tiger” community for 49 years for harvesting non-timber forest products. The signing of the leasing contract was followed by the forest regulation activities, ethnological expertise, biological and climate value assessment, and forest management plan preparation.
According to estimates, Korean pine-broadleaved forests accumulate biomass that allows to retain 176 mln tons of CO2. Therefore, their conservation from industrial logging will make a significant contribution to climate change mitigation. Conservation through so-called carbon certificates will ensure long-term funding of the Bikin project. Bikin forests provide large amounts of fodder for ungulates and fur animals, which benefits the Amur tiger, and the indigenous peoples, Udege and Nanai, whose traditional livelihood depends on hunting.
“Bikin conservation project financed by the German government as part of the International Climate Initiative, is unique”, says Yevgeny Lepyoshkin, Forest program coordinator at the Amur branch of WWF Russia. “Apart from mitigating climate change impact through saving valuable Korean Pine forests from logging, the project addresses many other issues. It helps to develop the traditional nature use by the local indigenous people and create a financial mechanism for Amur tiger habitat conservation”.
WWF hopes that the concept of conservation leasing on the model of the Bikin project will be supported at the Side-Event in Saint-Peterburg and will become the basic concept for conservation of all Amur tiger habitats.