The protected habitat of the Far-Eastern (Amur) leopards would be enlarged.
On May 16 at the meeting held in Vladivostok, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov talked about creation of Leopard Land national park and threats to the survival of the Far-Eastern leopard.
According to the Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister, who supervises the Far-Eastern leopard conservation program, the population of this extremely rare species in Russia has almost halved over the last 20 years, with no more than 45 individuals remaining in the wild.
Today, the main role in the Far-Eastern leopard conservation belongs to the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge, but their state leaves much to be desired. Main question that was discussed during the meeting concerned the borders of the pending national park. The territory of the Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge critically needs to be enlarged, considering the actual habitat of the predator. The national park will include lands behind the engineering facilities, "Nezhinsky" and "Borisovsky" hunting estates, and other lands. No stalking and hunting with dogs will be allowed in the new protected area. The emphasis of the development should be made on tourism. Also Sergei Ivanov said that a 600-meters long tunnel will be constructed near the Narvinsky pass on the Razdolnoe-Khasan route, so that the federal highway doesn’t disturb the leopards. The tunnel is designed for preservation of animals’ traditional migratory paths and its construction will be funded from federal budget and out of the funds provided by “Gasprom”.
“We agreed on park borders. Scientists have been repeatedly registering tracks of leopards to the north of Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, therefore it was decided to include a number of these forestlands in a protected zone. Borders of the future Leopard Land national park were defined relying on this data, and they have increased to 380 hectares, which is twice as large as the present protected area. In two weeks all legal documents will be signed. I want to notice that we are not “ecological extremists”, and park borders would not affect territories important for households and gas pipeline. We should do the utmost to conserve the most northern leopard living in Russia", - Ivanov declared in conclusion.
A week ago I headed south to see how the leopards were doing, escaped from the city for a weekend to the place I love the most – Khasan district. The spring always comes to this lands first. There's no snow, rivers broke up, faded grass covers the hills, and for half an hour you can stay outside without a jacket on. But this early spring brings early dangers. The head of the South team who also lead the fire-fighting brigade in the Leopard Land reported that the forest fires started almost a month earlier than usually. I saw that for myself. Once-exuberant landscape came to resemble a burnt desert. I stared at black hills and adust trees with great sorrow imagining how uninhabitable this place is now for the few remained leopards.
As one may know, conservation of endangered animals nowadays should be complex in every possible way. For years the Phoenix Fund struggles for the survival of the Amur leopard and espouse the ecological cause. We realize that anti-poaching alone won't save the world's most peaceful predator. Education and outreach, compensation for damage caused by predators to livestock, resolution of conflicts, habitat protection and forest fire-fighting are vital activities implemented by Phoenix.
A week later a new well-equipped and motivated fire-fighting team successfully extinguished fresh fire in the leopard habitat. With the recent fire-fighting project started by Phoenix in Khasan the home of the leopard would be safe under watchful eye of firemen.
I just got back home after a four-hour drive from Kedrovaya Pad nature reserve where I was presenting first results of a new MIST project started there three months ago. The feedback was rather exciting as I saw inspectors’ faces radiating understanding why they had to take all the waypoints using GPS units and fill in observation blanks during the months. But let me explain what MIST I am talking about.
As one may know, saving endangered animals is a very complex and long-term task. For decades specialists have been developing and implementing various strategies to conserve the leopard in the field. But there still happen to be some improvements and MIST is one of them. From 2008–2010, standardized patrol-based law enforcement monitoring was established under the Tigers Forever Program across 8 key tiger sites outside Russia in order to improve and evaluate law enforcement interventions. Patrol-based monitoring has the distinct advantage of providing regular and rapid information on illegal activities and ranger performance. Seeking the way to reach exactly same objectives both in tiger and leopard conservation, Phoenix and its partner WCS-Russia decided to introduce MIST to numerous protected areas of the southern Russia’s Far East to improve the effectiveness of anti-poaching (AP) patrols. The project started in Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve - on the Leopard Land - where we held our first feedback meeting for MIST this Friday. The results we presented to management of the AP totally proved the MIST is useful and should be continued.
In the very beginning we came across lack of enthusiasm among both managers and inspectors: lots of new duties and responsibilities with no clear vision of the outcome. As any new process it had to be guided and well supported from outside, but I was hopeful obvious results would rouse sincere interest.
When the director of the protected area and anti-poaching inspectors acquainted themselves with the MIST report they saw clearly the difference in teams' performance. Besides giving the bold results we decided to encourage inspectors to do this extra data-collection work during patrols by introducing an incentive system to award good achievements. The report obviously showed that one team didn't do any patrols with data collection for MIST and as a result will not receive any bonuses for the 3-month period. It was clear from the reactions of the inspectors who would not receive bonuses that they regretted that they hadn't collected data. The inspectors paid good attention during the discussion of the recommendations for improvements. It will be interesting to see if this will have a positive impact on their efforts. During the meeting the director of Kedrovaya Pad held a briefing for his inspectors on fire prevention. The fire dangerous season started earlier this year. And I saw that for myself on my way back home. Hardly had I left the reserve, a burning hill appeared on the horizon in the vicinity of a small village. I called the director of Kedrovaya Pad immediately. A mobile team was sent to the site within the word to fight the forest fire. I was surprised to find out that neither the villagers nor passersby seemed to worry about the fire. And that made me think about a huge work that yet had to be done on education and outreach in the area to ensure one more aspect of Amur tiger and leopard survival.
Today, February 3, two poachers were detained during a routine patrol by the Southern anti-poaching team in Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge near the Bomburovo military reservation.
During the inspection of the protected area (PA) the team noticed six people dressing a killed roe deer. Shortly, the poachers left the bag and went every which way to continue hunting. The inspectors decided to follow the violators. After more than four hours of pursuit two poachers were detained. Both men had blood-stained backpacks with illegal guns and knives. The suspected poachers were handed over to Khasansky police office for further legal action.
According to the results of Southern team's work in 2010 fifty-four violations of environmental regulations at the Leopardovy wildlife refuge and on adjacent territories were revealed and prosecuted.
Chief enforcement officer Eugeny Stoma said the team operates successfully thanks to variable strategy and tactics.
“We are now conducting surprise raids in the PA and along its borders, even in deep forest, and at night. We have found it rather easy to trace these illegal hunters during winter season by tracks on snow. However, unfortunately, they had numerical advantage and manage to elude us sometimes. This time we could only detain two poachers out of six.”
We are glad to report about another successful pursuit in Southwest Primorye!
At noon on Friday, January 14, the Southern anti-poaching team found footprints belonging allegedly to two men and followed a trail of footprints to catch up with and arrest the intruders. After a 2-hour pursuit the rangers noticed that the violators entered Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve. At 4:00 p.m. the footprints belonging to one of the trespassers were lost on the southern slopes of a bare hill. Later on, a man with an illegal hunting rifle was arrested and taken into police custody. A criminal proceeding was initiated.
It is obvious that the rangers do a great job patrolling two protected areas, Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge and Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve, home to Amur leopards and tigers. And it is possible thanks to your generosity, our supporters, and rangers’ commitment to nature conservation.
On behalf of our staff, I wish you joy and peace in 2011.
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