Phoenix Fund

Our mission is to conserve the exceptionally rich fauna and flora of the Russian Far East, the only region where Amur tigers and leopards survive in the wild. These magnificent animals are threatened by habitat deterioration, poaching of the big cats themselves and depletion of their prey populations.
Oct 2, 2013

A leopard festival

Dance performance on stage (c) Phoenix Fund
Dance performance on stage (c) Phoenix Fund

Saving rare species can be ensured not only by protecting their habitat and fighting poaching. At Phoenix Fund we believe that education of the local communities can contribute greatly to Amur leopard conservation in a long term. This is why on September 21, 2013, staff members of the Phoenix Fund took part in the Leopard and Sea Festival that was celebrated in Slavyanka.

The holiday devoted to the one of the rarest cats on the planet – the Amur leopard – has a long history. Over ten years ago thanks to local ecological NGOs, namely the Phoenix Fund and World Wildlife Fund, and with support from the Administration of Khasan district, there was a series of educational and entertaining events in local villages and on the seashore – two famous beaches in Slavyanka and Andreevka. Even then the organizers of the holiday wanted to reach out to residents and guests of the Khasan district with the following message: Leopard and sea are inseparately linked, and the fate of present and future generations depends on the state of leopard population and the status of marine resources. Traditionally, on the eve of the holiday there were clean-up actions during which volunteers collected trash and marine debris on the beaches.

This year the interconnection between this rare big cat and the sea reflected in the name of the festival – Leopard and Sea – and during the holiday one could see close cooperation between specialists of Land of the Leopard National Park and Far Eastern Marine Nature Reserve. The holiday was held on the central square of Slavyanka town. Teams of schoolchildren from almost all settlements of the Khasan district arrived to participate in the holiday. The registered participants gathered near local recreation centre. The festival started with a festive procession from the recreational centre to the central square of Slavyanka. Then, there was a Dance Flash Mob, during which representatives of each school team performed on the stage showing various dance moves, and the audience joined them quickly repeating the dance steps and movements. A group of children from local Rodnichok eco-club (gymnasia #1, Slavyanka, run by teacher Natalia Drobysheva), that the Phoenix Fund has been supporting for over 10 years, excited the audience with its energy. Then, the school teams competed in the following contests: “Fashion Show in Animals Costumes», “Drawing on Asphalt”, “Merry Relay” and “Connoisseurs”.

Jul 15, 2013

Successful rehabilitation

Cinderella
Cinderella's transportation to release site

On May 8th, the tigress Cinderella was finally released back to the wild in the Bastak Nature Reserve in Jewish Autonomous Province! These entire time specialists were closely watching its every step and we keep on receiving the good news from the reserve.

The coordinates received through a satellite from Cinderella’s collar allowed us to follow the movements of a tigress, and have even shown the sites of her first hunting. After the release from the enclosure where a regular food was provided by the keepers, animals might have troubles with finding prey by themselves. On this stage it was especially important to register the fact of Cinderella’s successful hunting in new conditions.  The route of tigress’s movements in the reserve, with stops for 2-3 days, allowed specialists to track down some of her kills. Several badgers and a wild boar became the first prey of a tigress.  The recent coordinates from her collar also confirmed the facts of successful hunting. Having verified that in natural conditions Cinderella behaves as a normal wild tiger, the employees of Inspection Tiger are going to leave their post in Bastak and delegate responsibilities for tiger tracking to reserve’s rangers.

In the meantime we will keep on following the fate of the tigress, and support the rehabilitation of the three tiger cubs that still reside in the Rehabilitation Center for Rare Species.

Recently the two cubs (brothers) were moved to former Cinderella’s enclosure. They are doing well according to the keeper and already got comfortable in the new open-air cage. Like Cinderella they avoid people whenever someone gets to the center or approaches the enclosure to give food they hide in the remote secluded part of their new home. In June the specialist are going to start their “hunting training” by providing the prey, rabbits for the beginning.

The third cub remains in the separate enclosure. He also gains weight and acts like a wild animal that can be released into the wild in future.  

We would like to thank all our supporters who made the release of Cinderella possible through donations at GlobalGiving! In spite of a cruel destiny prepared for the small orphaned tiger cub, and thanks to aspiration of specialists to save and rehabilitate the rare animal, Cinderella got her chance for a normal life. In spite of pessimistic predictions of some experts claiming that the tigress should be placed in a zoo, she roams freely in the protected forest.

Jul 15, 2013

Fire-fighting in the southern part of Land of the Leopard National Park

Creating a fire-break
Creating a fire-break

Fires originate primarily near the railroad, the main road and settlements, as well as near resorts on the coast. Almost all fires that enter the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and the Land of the Leopard National Park originate in the multiple-use lands of the Bezverkhovo Municipality. For example, a large hill in the southeastern part of the reserve has lost its forest cover due to frequent fires originating from Bezverkhovo. Therefore, improved fire control here is essential not only to reduce ground fires in already-open grasslands, promoting their eventual restoration, but also to prevent further degradation of remaining forests.  In 2011, we created a fire brigade responsible for fighting fires, identifying arsonists and creating new firebreaks in the Leopardovyi Wildlife Refuge (later Land of the Leopard National Park). This brigade is managed by Evgeny Stoma, the inspector of the National Park. We purchased a used van for patrolling and equipment for the team, including high-pressure air blowers, protective clothing, wireless communication equipment and other essential items. Every year brigade members is hired by Stoma and receive training.

In 2013, fire prevention measures started in the protected area in early February.  A bulldozer started to do a new fire break along the railway.  The works were finished only in the middle of April. A route of the fire break was chosen maximum close to the borders of the protected area (railway) so that the most vulnerable part of the forestland of the national park became well protected.

In spring, replacing an old vehicle, a new UAZ with more number of seats and better off-road capability was purchased.

In mid-March a fire-fighting team of volunteers was fully manned/ staffed, equipped and trained on fire-fighting methods, first aid treatment and work with communication devices.    First, the team began working with local people informing them about the start of fire season and important fire safety rules. The volunteer fire fighters also told the villagers about responsibilities stipulated by law for use of open flame fires during the fire danger season on the territory of the protected area and gave people contact details so that they could report about ignitions. In March, the team members attended a training session organized by Greenpeace-Russia and shared their knowledge and experience on fire-fighting measures. 

Every day the team went to patrol the assigned area early in the morning. Three to four team members surveyed the area for fires from high-elevation lookout posts while the other members patrolled in a minivan. The team members communicated using two-way radios (a fixed set in the van and hand-held sets for the outposts) as well as with cellular phones. The combination of observation from look-out posts and patrolling ensured that fires were spotted quickly and that fire-fighting started when fires were still small. The mini-van dropped off team members near fires that had been spotted and these team members usually managed to put out the fire quickly. If a fire was difficult to control, then additional team members were collected from look-out posts. During patrols the team regularly contacted a volunteer fire-fighting team operating in Slavyanka model area (a joint project with the Slavyanka Municipality and the Land of the Leopard National Park), shared information on the current fire situation and assisted each other to put out forest fires.  

It is worth mentioning that during the reported period the team members worked well-coordinated. If we look at a satellite image above, we can see five areas where forest fires started simultaneously as a result of arsons by unknown people. Within an hour the team of volunteers arrived at the scene and, after a couple of hours, extinguished the fires.  Thanks to the effective teamwork of the volunteers the fire was not let to spread over the borders of the protected area.  

On April 16, the team assisted inspectors of the protected area to put out a fire started inside the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve. 

All in all, during spring fire danger season the team extinguished 16 fires, including five on the protected area (along the railway) and 11 fires on the adjacent territories. On May 20, 2013 the fire season was officially over.

After a successful day in the field
After a successful day in the field

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