WWF Russia defined the priorities for the Amur Tiger Conservation Strategy implementation.
The results of Sergei Donskoy’s visit to Primorsky Province, concerning the completion of the field phase of the full range Amur tiger and Amur leopard survey, were announced on February 17 at the meeting devoted to the conservation of these endangered species. The event was attended by Amirkhan Amirkhanov, temporary acting head of Federal Service for Nature Resources Supervision (Rosprirodnadzor), Vladimir Miklushevsky, the Governor of Primorsky Province, Vladimir Aramilev, scientific coordinator of the survey, researcher of the Far Eastern Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences, heads of the major federal protected areas within tiger range, environmental agencies and NGOs including “Amur tiger” Center and WWF Russia.
“All data obtained during the survey will be processed after 3 months and after that we will be able to see whether we reach the medium-term objective of the Global Programme to stabilize the Amur tiger population at 500 - 550 individuals by 2015,” - said Sergei Donskoy.
The participants of the meeting discussed the future prospects of implementation of the Amur tiger Conservation Strategy in Russia adopted in 2010. Concerning the Russian Federation’s obligations in terms of the Global Tiger Recovery Programme, Sergei Donskoy underlined positive trends such as increasing the penalty for storage and transportation of Amur tiger body parts and its derivates due to the amendments introduced to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation in 2013. Now, the smugglers are prosecuted as criminals with a maximum punishment of 5 to 7 years of imprisonment and a fine up to 2 million rubles.
Sergei Donskoy also stressed out the strengthening of measures for Amur tiger protection and fighting against illegal trade of rare species on the Internet, and noted about an active cooperation with the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (Police), who seized several skins of Red Data Book animals including tiger during 2014. Criminal cases were initiated to investigate these crimes.
Igor Chestin, director of WWF Russia also emphasized this positive trend in fighting against poaching and trafficking endangered species: “Due to amendments introduced to the legislation and the effective work of the Police, the Customs authorities and the Federal Security Service the number of revealed cases of trade and smuggling tiger derivatives has increased. However, smugglers have not yet been brought to the punishment in case with the murder of at least 6 tigers revealed in 2012 in Nakhodka, and 8 tiger skins found in Arsenyev.
Over the past two years the Wildlife and Hunting Management Service of Primorsky Province has been seriously upgraded. Today the Hunting Department consists of special ranger groups for monitoring and patrolling the entire territory of Primorsky Province. Sergei Sidorenko, vice-governor of Primorsky Province said in his report: “In January of 2015 ranger groups revealed 158 violations, confiscated 20 firearms and more than 25 illegally killed ungulates. Moreover, 8 people out of the arrested turned to be representatives of different level of government authorities. Administrative and criminal cases were initiated in all cases, and we in cooperation with the Police intend to bring them to the Court.“
Sergei Donskoi, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, also stressed the importance of expanding protection measures in tiger habitats and beyond protected areas.
Igor Chestin, head of WWF Russia, noted, “If we want to conserve the Amur tiger we should invest money into these activities. Users of game resources differ from each other. We know that in Primorye in the areas leased by hunting estates the density of tiger is higher than in protected territories. We know examples to the contrary when there are no animals at all. The Government should assist the hunting organizations in a volume the farming industry is provided with based on key indicators of effectiveness. It would guarantee the sustainability of wild ungulates population in the habitats of tiger and other large predators”.
The number of ungulates is a limiting factor for the tiger population even in a greater degree than poaching. Therefore, another issue raised by WWF was the need to make corrections of the bag limits for ungulates. They are calculated based on the data of the winter route counting which are conducted annually by each hunting organization in January-February.
Chestin adds, that “Under the heavy snow conditions like we experience this winter the bag limits should be corrected according to the data collected in April. Otherwise we face overhunting”.
In addition, WWF suggested to raise funding of the hunting supervision agencies four or five times compared to the present day budget, and to increase the number of rangers up to three persons per each municipal district.
The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment supported these proposals and announced that they will be discussed in Moscow with participation of representative of from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Economic Development and Trade.