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.
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