Help Save Last 30 Amur Leopards from Extinction

May 28, 2014

Guards' work in the first half of 2014

Illegaly hunted game
Illegaly hunted game

In January 2014, the team carried out 23 anti-poaching patrols, some of which were conducted in cooperation with police officers. Also, the inspectors continued marking the border of the national park by setting up new signs. And as in previous months, they gave two lectures on careful attitude towards nature at school in Zarubino village.

On January 13, the team received information about a fire on Stolovaya hill in the Land of the Leopard National Park. Upon arrival, the inspectors discovered a large fire. Strong gusty wind blowing from sea to land and marshland with high and thick reeds hindered the efforts of the team to put out the fire. It took a few hours before it was extinguished. When examining the burned area, the inspectors determined that the fire was an act of arson. The fire burned about 45 hectares. On January 19, another fire was discovered near the Narva River. Thanks to prompt actions by the team, the fire did not spread deep into the forest and no damage was caused to the protected area. The burned area was about two hectares. The inspectors forwarded papers about the arson to Khasan police for further investigation. It is worth mentioning that due to the continued lack of adequate snow cover it was hard for the inspectors to reveal trespassing. That is why it was decided to increase the number of ambushes at places where poaching was most likely to occur. In January, the number of hunting out of a car increased.  In this connection, the team had to show up regularly on public roads in order to prevent such violations.

In February, the team continued patrolling the protected area and adjacent hunting leases in order to prevent or reveal poaching and protect the area from forest fires. Overall, the inspectors carried out 24 patrols and extinguished four fires. Due to increased number of fires inside the national park, in order to be able to respond promptly, effectively and safely to wildfires it was decided to reduce the distance of foot patrols and patrol mostly in areas where fires were likely to occur. Also, they gave three lectures on careful attitude towards nature at schools in Zanadvorovka and Barabash villages. In addition, the team set up information signs and repaired a patrol vehicle.

During night patrol on February 14 near Narvinsky firing range, the team saw a beam of light. When approaching to the light, the inspectors saw people who were casting “an artificial light” from their car hoping to shoot a deer. After a pursue, resistance by poachers and a fight, the violators with a rifled carbine were detained and taken to Khasan police station for further investigation.  A criminal case was initiated under the Article 258 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

In March, the team of central subordination continued patrolling the protected area in order to prevent and reveal any violations of environmental laws. Most patrols were carried out during daylight hours due to high fire-risk season. Sometimes, the patrols were conducted in cooperation with specialists of Krainovsky nature reserve and gamekeepers of adjacent hunting leases. In all, the team carried out 22 patrols, extinguished 11 forest fires and gave two lectures on nature conservation for schoolchildren.

As it was mentioned above, besides protecting the Park from poachers, the team paid special attention to prevent ignitions.  In all, eleven forest fires were detected and put out both in the Park and adjacent territory. According to the team’s leader, all fires were set deliberately. And the areas were fires took place remained the same as in previous fire seasons: Bezverkhovsky firing range (the Upper Pugachevka river), territory around Bamburovo railway station, Berabash, Primorsky and Ovchinnikovo villages.   

On March 1, while patrolling the team detected a forest fire near the Verkhnye Brusya river and promptly put it out. The fire burned a 100x20 m area. On March 4, a fire was extinguished in cottage village near Bamburovo railway station. The fire burned an area estimated at 30 meters.  On March 6, the team together with inspectors from other teams put out a fire on the Narvensky pass. The fire burned over 6 hectares.  On March 9, a forest fire on 12 km of Barabash-Primorsky highway was promptly extinguished. The fire burned about 10 hectares. On March 10, while patrolling along a railway, the inspectors detected a fire on the adjacent hunting lease. As there was a risk of fire spread from the hunting lease to the national park, it was decided to extinguish the fire immediately. The fire was put out quickly. On March 13, a fire was put out near a railway bridge over the Narva river. On March 19, in cooperation with inspectors from other teams a fire was extinguished on Narvinsky firing range. The fire burned the area estimated at 4 hectares.  From March 24 to March 26, the team together with volunteer fire fighters and foresters extinguished a forest fire started on the adjacent area near the Poima river. Swampy terrain with thick stands of tall reeds and strong and gusty wind blowing toward the national park hindered their efforts. The firefighters struggled several hours before the fire was put out. The fire burned a 3 kmx2km area.  On March 28, while patrolling near Narvinsky firing range, the team detected a fire and put it out at promptly. The fire burned about 8 hectares. On March 30, the team detected a fire on Narvinsky firing range again and put it out at once.

In April, most patrols were aimed at prevention of forest fires. The team patrolled day and night. Sometimes the patrols were carried out in cooperation with inspectors from other anti-poaching teams and officers from military forestry. In all, the team conducted 23 patrols.

On April 11, the team received information about ignition in the Park near Pozharsky railway station. Upon arrival on the scene, the team with colleagues from other AP teams discovered a burned area estimated at 1.5 km. Only after four-hour struggle, the fire was put out. On April 12, the team detected a fire near the Semiverstka river. The inspectors together with other anti-poaching teams tried to extinguish the fire several times, but strong and gusty wind and thick smoke hindered their efforts. The inspectors took another try next morning but failed to put out the fire properly due to a strong wind. It was decided to patrol the area on a regular basis in order to prevent fire spread to other areas. In the evening, the team was informed about another forest fire started near the Poima river. All Park’s teams were deployed there. It took four hours before the fire was put out. But due to dry and windy weather grass fires ignited again and again. It was decided to patrol the area on a regular basis too. In all, the fire burned an area estimated at 12 hectares. As no ignitions was detected since April 15, the inspectors were deployed to other spot to help put out a fire that started on April 17. The fire burned about 4,000 hectares. On April 18, when patrolling along Barabash-Primorsky highway, the team detected a fire and put it out promptly. About 1 hectare burned. On April 27, at noon the team was informed about a forest fire near Bamburovo railway station. Upon arrival on the scene, the inspectors saw that dry brush and gusty winds made the perfect conditions for fire spread to the area of the national park. The fire was put out only at 5 a.m. of the next day, but blazes appeared again and kept spreading with every wind gust. Thanks to help of foresters, the fire was finally localized at 1 p.m.

Feb 24, 2014

Wild fires pose serious threat to leopard habitat

The Land of the Leopard is on fire! Our ranger informed us that the fire-hazardous season started very early this year caused by open winter with no snow. Usually the wildland fires in Khasan district begin in March or even April. However, in 2014 we have to start fire-fighting in February. The Phoenix Fund began to gather volunteer brigades that will help the national park to fight fires in the Amur leopard habitat. We ask everyone to support our important work with your donations. Now the collected funds will go to purchase of necessary fire-fighting equipment and fuel for the brigades' vehicles.  

Dec 18, 2013

The leopards at the deer farm in Khasan

The efficient anti-poaching activities that were implemented in Khasansky district of Primorye thanks to GlobalGiving supporters ensured good protection of leopards’ habitat. But the survival of the big cats also depends on a peaceful coexistence of animals and people.   

For more than two years the female Amur leopard Sophie lives in close proximity to one of the deer farms located in the Khasansky district of Primorye. Such neighborship is unfavorable to the owner because the animal uses his territory as the hunting site. Therefore, the farmer suffers constant damage from leopard’s presence.To solve the conflict between the man and the animal the Phoenix Fund together with the Institute of environmental problems and evolution of A.N. Severtsov of the Russian Academy of Sciences developed a special program which helps to maintain tolerant relation of the farmers towards rare predators. The main difference of this program from paying compensation to the owner of cattle for the damage caused by a predator is that every month the farmer receives a fixed sum of money for the fact of leopard’s presence in close proximity to his territory. The information on leopard’s presence in the territory of the deer farm at the beginning was gathered by scientists through the coordinates received from Sophie’s radio collar, and later, when the batteries on the collar ran down - through the photos made with photo traps.

After a long pause during the spring and autumn season when the hidden cameras couldn't record presence of a leopard at the Olenevod deer farm in Khasan, the good news came – camera traps finally caught female leopard Sophie, her kitten and a male leopard. Now the experts will compare new photos with hundreds of others available in a database to define who is visiting Sophie. Old or new guests?

The owner of the farm Alexander Khudenko was also excited about the new photographs of the leopards. These photographs allowed him to receive a promised compensation from the Phoenix Fund for a long-term presence of the animal on the farm’s land. The compensation for 7 months from May to November amounted in a rather big sum of money - 105 thousand rubles ($3500)!

In order to monitor leopards’ presence on the private territory in future, the Phoenix Fund purchased additional photo traps which will be installed along the perimeter of the deer farm in 2014.

We hope that this project will help cultivate tolerance among locals towards rare and beautiful wild cats, and also will make them proud to be living in the neighborhood with such unique animals.


Photo credits: A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences

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

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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Phoenix Fund

Vladivostok, Primorski Krai, Russia

Project Leader

Sergei Bereznuk

Vladivostok, Primorsky krai Russia

Where is this project located?

Map of Help Save Last 30 Amur Leopards from Extinction