Animals
 Russia
Project #6144

Help Save Last 30 Amur Leopards from Extinction

by Phoenix Fund
Vetted
(c) Land of the Leopard National Park
(c) Land of the Leopard National Park

Dear supporters, as you alredy know the number of Amur leopards and their cubs is growing steadily and we cannot thank you enough for your invaluable support of our project. The collected funds were provided to the law-enforcement team of the Land of the Leopard National Park to ensure proper protection of the rare animals' habitat from poachers. Below we would like to present the efforts of the supported team that assured the growing leopard numbers.

Since the beginning of 2016, the team of central subordination carried out 132 patrols in the Land of the Leopard National Park, revealed five violations, confiscated a rifle and rescued a tiger cub. 

In January 2016, the team of central subordination patrolled the territories of the Land of the Leopard National Park in order to prevent and reveal wildlife crimes and other violations. Due to abundant snowfalls in mid-January the team has to patrol mostly by snowmobiles or on foot along the rutted driveway. In all, the team carried out 19 anti-poaching patrols inside the protected areas and on the adjacent territories. In the beginning of January, the rangers of the Central team together with their colleagues helped with the search of orphaned tiger cubs near Filippovka and Barabash villages. On January 4, the rangers together with border guards conducted a joint patrol at frontier stations in a border protection zone between Russia and China. No violations were revealed. In general, signs of people presence in the protected area were found rather rarely in January. It can be concluded that there are positive changes in protection regime of the national park. 

In February, the team spent much time to learn to fly a quadcopter DJI Phantom 2+ in winter conditions. The flights were mostly under the territory of Land of the Leopard National Park. Some photographs of woodland and other objects were taken during the test flights. In general, the team patrolled on foot. No violations were revealed, however the inspectors discovered foot prints in snow in very rare cases. As it snowed several times in February, the team conducted a few patrols on snowmobiles. During one of such patrols, the inspectors discovered tiger tracks (11.5 cm paw width) leading from the Narva River to Zolotoy stream. In all, the team carried out 21 anti-poaching patrols.

On February 24, the team members together with specialists of Rosprirodnadzor conducted joint flights over sea ports of Vladivostok in order to reveal pollution sources in the Golden Bay. As a result, a few oil spills were revealed. The photos and  video were given to the specialists of Rosprirodnadzor.In the end of month, the team prepared for competition that took place in Chaibanschan Nature Reserve, China. The inspectors practiced to install camera traps, to work with GPS units and to use SMART software. Together with colleagues from Education Department of the national park, the inspectors took field trips to study wildlife tracks and other signs of their activity. 

In March, the team varied out 23 patrols. In early March, the team mostly patrolled on foot from Bezverkhovsky pass to the Brusya River. Such patrols were carried out regularly right after the fact of discovering signs of unauthorized presence of people (foot prints) there. On March 2, the team went to participate in the competition that was to be held in Changbaishan National Nature Reserve on March 9. All in all, eleven anti-poaching teams (nine from China, and two from Russia) took part in the competition. The second Russian team was presented by the law enforcement staff of Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Nature Reserve. At first, the teams competed in orientation in the field, installation of camera traps, observation of wildlife tracks and identification of plants. Then, the teams used PowerPoint presentations to report on their anti-poaching activities. The team from Land of the Leopard National Park was ranked first.

In March, the team of central subordination in cooperation with the South team patrolled the area near Khasan Lake in order to prevent illegal hunting during spring migration of waterfowl.  Near the frontier post #39 the inspectors found signs of human presence and geese hunting. No violators were revealed. 

Also, the team conducted numerous foot patrols. During one of them, the inspectors discovered a leopard track (7 cm paw width).

In April, the team continued patrolling the assigned area in order to prevent and reveal wildlife violations and protect the national park from forest fires. In early April, the inspectors mostly patrolled on foot. In all, 24 patrols were carried out. While patrolling near Narvinsky pass, Ovchinikovo and Filippovka villages, the team discovered leopard and tiger tracks. On April 7, the team conducted a joint patrol with the Central team and installed Land of the Leopard National Park name signs. Before the start of the fire season, the team members participated in special training in general firefighting techniques and administrative law. From April 15, the team began patrolling the areas by a quadbike in order to catch motorcyclists who illegally entered the protected area to hunt.   While patrolling, the inspectors discovered two trails of tiger tracks. On the one trail they identified tracks left by a tigress and three cubs. On April 21, during a joint patrol the team found three artificial salt-licks made illegally inside the protected area. Two of them were abandoned, but the one was likely to be used by poachers. It was decided to make ambushes near it in order to apprehend violators. On April 27, during a quadbike patrol the team discovered a fire between Barabash and Ovchinikovo villages. The fire was extinguished promptly. On April 30, the team patrolled on foot from the Brusya River to Bezverkhovsky pass in order to check the salt-licks discovered before and to reveal illegal presence of people there. No sing of human activity was spotted there, but there were plenty of tracks left by ungulates.

In May, the team carried on patrolling the assigned area to prevent and reveal wildlife violations. In all, the inspectors carried out 22 patrols. In May, Roman Israfilov, a new member joined the team. During the first half of the month, the team mostly patrolled on foot and by a quadbike. In early May, there were a few forest fires. One of them occurred on May 6 near Bezverkhovo village right in front of the railway crossing. The team together with the colleagues from other Park’s anti-poaching teams suppressed the fire.  

Also, in May there was a meeting between law enforcement staff of the national park and police officers in order to schedule their joint patrols.

As more and more citizens of China illegally penetrate the Russian Federation to gather fern, a number of joint patrols with border guards was scheduled in a border protection zone between Russia and China. The first patrol was to be held on May 25-26, and the second one on May 30-31. The main objectives of the patrols were to find any signs of illegal presence of Chinese people in Russia and to detain violators.

During the second half of the month, the patrols were mostly conducted by UAZ vehicle along the Narva River, Ovchinnikovo and Filippovka villages.  While patrolling along the Narva River, the team apprehended two men for unauthorized presence and issued administrative citations upon the violators. On May 27, the inspectors detain a man with an illegal rifle who made an ambush to hunt at a salt lick. The violator was taken to Khasansky police station for further investigation and prosecution.

On May 16, the inspectors detained a group of Korean people for gathering fern in the national park. It was determined that they worked in Vladivostok and came into the park specially to pick up the plants. The Koreans were handed over to border guards.  

Also, the team visited the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals to assist in taking video footage of enclosures with the use of a quadcopter. The footage will be used in a documentary about an Amur leopard kept at the Centre. During the flight over the enclosure, the camera captured the leopard.

On May 30, two armed men were arrested for unauthorized presence in the Park. The violators intended to hunt at artificial salt-licks they had made earlier. The inspectors seized illegal rifles and cartridges and forwarded all the materials to Khasansky police station for further investigation. Hunting is strictly prohibited in the Park, The violators face a fine up to 200 thousand rubles or correctional labor up to two years. 

“Hunting at salt licks is famous hunting method among poachers”, says Evgeny Stoma, Deputy Director of the Land of the Leopard National Park. “Luckily, inspectors managed to apprehend the violators with rifles just in time to prevent killing animals. We hope that the poachers will get proper punishment”.

In June, the team spent much time to repair the patrol car. As a result, the inspectors patrolled mostly on foot. In all, the team carried out 23 anti-poaching patrols. While patrolling, the team found a few tiger and leopard tracks. Among the tracks, there were ones supposedly belonged to a leopardess and cubs.

In July, the team was patrolling the territory mostly on foot and conducted several joint patrols with frontier guards. Five minor violation were revealed during this month. 

The patrol work in August and September was focused on detaining illegal fishersdue to the start of fishing season. No cases of illegal hunting were revealed.

The team will continue their important anti-poaching work and make sure the Amur leopards feel safe within the borders of the national park. 

(c) Land of the Leopard National Park
(c) Land of the Leopard National Park
(c) Land of the Leopard National Park
(c) Land of the Leopard National Park

Links:

According to the press service of the Far Eastern Leopard Programme sixteen Amur leopard cubs were tracked by camera-traps in the Land of the Leopard National Park in 2015 and 2016, which is nearly three times more than in 2014 when scientists only got images of six young predators.

National park experts said the cubs had been born from eight females. Their names are Grace the leopardess, Sochi, Alexa, Umka, and also three unnamed females. Queen Borte the leopardess had three cubs in her litter. Scientists said the cubs looked healthy and followed their mother’s heels closely.

However, the number of recorded cubs may have increased not only due to the growing leopard population but also due to a larger number of trail cameras in the park. In 2016, over 300 hidden cameras were set up on an area of 3,000 sq km. The monitored territory has expanded substantially allowing scientists to obtain more information about the population of the rarest wildcat on the planet.

“Trail cameras have drastically improved the quality of information used for assessing the population. This method is different from the traditional approach when leopards were counted from their paw prints in the snow. Photo monitoring is an objective method that doesn’t depend on the weather or expert personal opinion. We have laid the foundation for future objective research,” said deputy director for research at Land of the Leopard.

Now experts are analyzing the data from camera traps, and the number of cubs recorded in 2015 could turn out to be even higher. Final results of the 2015 monitoring and also new data on the number of leopards in the wild will be released this summer. The previous monitoring put the total number of Amur leopards living in Russia at about 70.

We thank all our supporters for making this great and promissing change happen. 

(c) Phoenix Fund
(c) Phoenix Fund

The official opening ceremony of Russia’s first ecological tunnel under the Narvinsky pass in the Khasansky District in Russia’s Far East took place on March 26, 2016. The tunnel specifically designed to preserve the near-extinct Amur leopard population let rare wild cats roam across their range without difficulty now. Earlier the highway intercepted animals’ migration routes, and quite a few leopards were hit by cars.The 575-metre Narvinsky tunnel is about 10 metres in width and 5 metres in height; it cuts the ridge of mountain pass with a highway connecting Vladivostok with the southern part of Primorye – Khasan village.

Primorsky Krai Governor Vladimir Miklushevsky, Kremlin Administration Chief and Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Eurasian Centre for Leopard Preservation and Rehabilitation Sergei Ivanov and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District Yuri Trutnev attended the official opening ceremony. The Phoenix Fund also took part in the opening ceremony.

“Since 2007, the Phoenix Fund together with other environmental NGOs and scientific institutions have been paying great attention to reconstruction of the road Razdolnoye – Khasan in order to minimize its impact on leopard population and its range. Scientists and ecologists addressed to Sergei Ivanov and Primorsky Krai Governor with requests on the issue. We are glad to see such a wonderful result of our joint efforts!” says Director of the Phoenix Fund Sergei Bereznuk.

(c) Phoenix Fund
(c) Phoenix Fund
() Gennadyi Yusin
() Gennadyi Yusin

We would like to present our supporters with the final yearly report on leopard conservation project. Your invaluable support helped the Central team of the Land of the Leopard National Park to undertake 290 anti-poaching patrols during the reported year. The rangers revealed 40 violations, seized four guns and forwarded them to the police, put out 12 forest fires and initiated six criminal proceedings.

In January 2015, the team carried out 16 anti-poaching patrols on the assigned area and adjacent territories of hunting leases. The inspectors patrolled day and night. Besides anti-poaching activities, the team also gave a lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Barabash village. Also, the team got ready for the Amur tiger and leopard survey in the national park. In January, it was hard to track poachers due to lack of snow. The violators did their best to disguise areas where they entered illegally the national park. For example, while patrolling along the Verkhnye Brusya River, the inspectors revealed an entry disguised by poachers but the pursuit failed due to lack of snow. The poachers managed to escape. In this connection, it was decided to increase number of ambushes and foot patrols in areas where poachers are most likely to appear. It is worth mentioning that poachers began using such devices as infrared cameras and night vision binoculars, which make impossible to use old methods to detain violators. At present, the team is developing new methods and tactics to apprehend such groups of poachers. Additionally, the team checked information regarding some of the Park’s inspectors who were suspected of having hunted illegally inside the protected area.

In February, the team carried out 22 anti-poaching patrols, mostly in the daytime. Besides revealing and preventing illegal hunting, the inspectors also did their best to prevent and put out forest fires. Additionally, the team gave a lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Barabash village. On February 1-2, the team took part in Amur tiger and leopard survey in the national park. On February 7, while patrolling near the Verkhnye Brusya River, the inspectors found fresh footprints leading deep into the forest. After following the tracks, they saw a group of poachers. The violators offered resistance. There was a fight. As the inspectors were outnumbered, they failed to detain the hunters, but managed to seize a smoothbore gun and handed it over to the police. On the following day, the inspectors found a photo of one of the violators with the use of the Internet and gave it to police officers so that they could identify the man. Luckily, the officers identified the violator and then confronted him with the inspectors. Then, a criminal case was initiated. On February 20 at 11 a.m. a fire was spotted on the adjacent territory near Bezverkhovo village. Due to gusts of wind from the seaside, there was a chance of the fire spreading to the national park. Therefore, it was decided to do a backfire in order to contain the wildfire. At 8 p.m. the fire was extinguished.

In March, the team carried out 20 anti-poaching patrols in order to prevent poaching, forest fires and other violations and crimes on the assigned territory. Some patrols were conducted jointly with police officers and border guards. On March 16, the rangers gave a lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Barabash village. On March 3, the team was informed about gun shots bear to one of the rangers’ station. Upon arrival on the place, the rangers examined the area and found tire tracks. It was obvious that violators were hunting from a vehicle. The rangers went deep into the forest in order to find any signs of illegal hunting. After a while, they found fresh blood spots and began to track a wounded animal . Shortly after, deer hit in the leg was found. As wound was not serious, it was decided to scared the animal far from the federal highway. On March 13, the members of the team were called to the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Ussuriisk to give evidence against a local of Barabash village accused in illegal hunting on December 27, 2014. On March 26, the team was informed about a forest fire near Bamburovsky firing ground. In an hour, the fire was put out thanks to prompt actions. A burned area was 300m x 200m. On March 27, the team had to make control burning in order to prevent fire spread from Bamburovo railway station.

In April, the team conducted 18 anti-poaching patrols, took forest fire prevention and control measures and gave three lectures on careful and respectful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Bezverkhovo and Zanadvorovka villages. Mostly, the rangers were focused on forest fire prevention and early detection of fires on the territory of the national park. In April, the team revealed and quickly put out four human-caused forest fires. On April 1, accidental ignition started at Bamburovo military firing range during combat training. The rangers spent almost three hours to extinguish the fire. It had burnt an area of 12 hectares. On April 8-9, the team together with the representative of Greenpeace-Russia conducted a prescribed burn on the park’s border in order to prevent fire spread from the territory of adjacent hunting lease. On April 9, in the evening the risk of fire spread was reduced. On April 14, the team was informed about ignition near Tsukanovo village and a risk of fire spread to the national park. The fire was put out immediately. On April 25, a forest fire was detected at frontier station #11, in a border protection zone between Russia and China. The rangers in cooperation with the colleagues from other anti-poaching teams took measures to prevent fire spread from Russia into China. After a long struggle, the fire was stopped. On April 27, the team was informed about a fire at frontier station #5. The rangers spent two hours to extinguish the fire. However, there was a risk that a fire could started again due to extremely dry vegetation and strong wind. As a result, the team stayed alert until the evening of April 28.

In May, the team carried out 22 anti-poaching patrols on the assigned area and adjacent territories. While patrolling, the rangers cooperated with border guards. In May, illegal hunting is more likely to occur at salt licks. Therefore, the team spent much time in ambushes near well-known salt-licks. Besides anti-poaching patrols, the team also took forest fire prevention measures and gave a lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Primorsky village. On May 6, a fire was detected near Sinij Utyos ranger’s station. It took about four hours to put out the fire. After investigation, it was determined that the fire had not been set deliberately. Strong wind caused power lines to swing together resulting in a short circuit, and sparks ignited the dried grass. On May 10, the team was informed about a fire near frontier station #2. It had come from China. The fire was put out quickly.

In June, the team carried out 18 anti-poaching patrols in order to prevent poaching, forest fires and other violations and crimes on the assigned territory. The rangers focused on making night ambushes near salt licks using a decoy deer. On June 5, one year old Amur leopard cub with an injured front paw was found on the territory of Land of the Leopard National Park on the border with China. According to experts, the cub lost its fingers getting into a poacher’s trap or a snare. Specialists from Vladivostok immediately arrived at the scene, immobilized the leopard, took measures and tests and transported it to the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Rare Animals in Alekseevka village. Now, the leopard is taking the final stage of rehabilitation, after which it will be ready to be released into the wild nature. This conclusion has been reached by experts of the Scientific and Technical Council of the Land of the Leopard National Park.

On June 9, the team found fresh motorcycle tracks leading to Narvinsky firing range. The team divided into two groups. One group laid an ambush and the second one followed the tracks. After a while, the rangers saw a motorcyclist driving with a backpack. When the man saw a patrol vehicle, he turned off the road and began driving across the field. The rangers continued to chase the violator on foot as the patrol vehicle could not move across the field. Unfortunately, the motorcyclist managed to escape.

In July, the team of central subordination conducted 22 patrols. With the start of spawning season, the rangers patrolled mostly along the spawning rivers and laid ambushes to prevent illegal salmon fishing. On July 3, the team patrolled at night together with traffic police officers, however no violations were revealed. On July 17-18, in cooperation with border guards the rangers patrolled near frontier post #5 in order to prevent illegal presence of Chinese people. No trespassers were found. On July 23-24, the team patrolled together with the border guards from the frontier post #4. While patrolling along the Poima River, they found a few bottles with chemical liquid to poison fish. On July 26, during a vehicle patrol along the Narva River, the team detained a local from Dalnerechensk for illegal presence at the national park. On July 28, a man from Sokoluk village was apprehended for illegal presence.

In August, the team carried out 23 anti-poaching patrols, mostly along the spawning rivers to prevent illegal salmon fishing. Also, the rangers made ambushes to track down the poachers and check possible entry of trespassers.

It should be mentioned that in August bad weather (pouring rain and water level increase in rivers) hindered efforts of rangers trying to patrol the area on foot. Sometimes, specialists of Federal Security Bureau participated in joint patrols on lands between the border patrol fence and the Chinese border. On August 6-7, the team helped scientific staff to replace memory sticks and batteries in 14 camera traps installed in special border protection zone near frontier posts 9 and 8. On August 29, while patrolling along the Barabashevka River the rangers apprehended a local from Barabash village for illegal presence in the park.

In September, the team continued patrolling mostly along the spawning rivers in Land of the Leopard National Park, sometimes attracting police officers and specialists from Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation. In all, the team carried out 22 anti-poaching patrols and gave a lecture on careful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Vityaz village. On September 5, while patrolling on the Upper Pugachevka river the inspectors apprehended a group of three people for illegal presence. Administrative citations were issued on the violators. On September 6, during joint patrol with police officers the rangers detained four men with illegal fishing devices. Administrative citations were issued on the violators. One of the detainees had a packet with narcotic substance of plant origin. A criminal case was initiated according article 228 of Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Illegal Making, Acquisition, Storage, Transportation, Sending, or Sale of Narcotic Drugs or Psychotropic Substances). On September 13, during a foot patrol along the Narva River the team apprehended a man for trespassing. On September 19, the team discovered illegal hemp plantation (cannabis plants).

In October, the team continued patrolling mostly along the spawning rivers in the Park, sometimes attracting police officers and border guards for joint patrols. The inspectors conducted 21 antipoaching patrols in the park and on the adjacent territories. On October 5, while patrolling along the Narva River, the team detained a man and imposed a fine for illegal presence in the park. On October 15, during a foot patrol along the Narva River the team apprehended a man and issued an administrative citation for trespassing. On October 17, during a joint patrol with police officers along the Narva River, the inspectors detained two men and issued administrative citations for unauthorized presence in the protected area. On October 25 and October 26, the team focused on extinguishing a forest fire that started on the territory of the national park near Filipovka village. The gusts of wind and rocky landscape made firefighting efforts more difficult. The fire was put out only on the second day. In all, the fire burned over 220 ha.

In November, the team carried out 23 anti-poaching patrols in the park and on the adjacent territories. Additionally, the inspectors gave three lectures on careful and respectful attitude towards nature for schoolchildren in Khasan, Kraskino and Posyet villages. On November 28, the team made an ambush in the Upper Poima River, and as a result stopped a car with two men. A look inside revealed two smoothbore carbines and two knives. The team called for police in order to arrest the violators and initiate criminal proceeding.

In December, the team patrolled the national park for 25 days. Only a few trespassers were detained during this month. No major violations have occurred.

We applaud the inspectors for stable presence of Amur tigers and leopards in the national park. In February 2015, the simultaneous count of Amur tigers and Amur leopards was organized by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and affiliated agencies. According to preliminary results of the count, the global population of Amur leopards is estimated at 60-70 species, with 57 recorded by camera traps in the Land of the Leopard National Park alone. Only two years ago, environmentalists informed that the population of the Amur leopard had grown by half since 2007, from 27-34 up to 50 individuals. Such upward tendency in Amur leopard population is very encouraging. About 20 Amur tigers co-exist with leopards in the Park. This became possible thanks to your support and we promise to keep on protecting the Amur leopards’ and tigers’ habitat in the 2016!

(c) Land of the Leopard National Park
(c) Land of the Leopard National Park

Evgeny Stoma, Deputy Director for Security of the Land of the Leopard National Perk, addressed the All-Russia meeting of natural reserve and national park directors and presented the unique expertise of using SMART program developed for monitoring of anti-poaching raids in the work of the Institution.

The All-Russia meeting of natural reserve and national park directors on challenges and opportunities of federal-status Specially Protected Natural Reservations (SPNR) system development started in Vladivostok on October 5, 2015. The event was organized by Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation and National Park “Land of the Leopard”.

A separate session of the meeting held in the Russky Island was dedicated to evaluation of performance of SPNR security service. CEOs of natural reserves discussed basic problems of management of inspectors’ activities and possible ways to solve them. Admittedly, in their work security departments should take into account increasing technical capabilities and competence of poachers. In this respect, Evgeny Stoma shared his views on how the new technologies can be used in the work of security department for best results.

Though having a lot of people, vehicles and equipment in security department is an important factor, they alone do not guarantee success yet. In order to understand the critical areas and to facilitate recording of operations and adaptive management of raids, SMART program has been used in the territory of National Park “Land of the Leopard” since 2010. This program is based on geographic information system and allows for analysis of territory patrolling operations.
SMART-like systems were first used in environmental inspectors’ work with the assistance of Phoenix Fund and WSC. Starting on a raid, the inspectors of “Land of the Leopard” switch on their GPS navigators which record the distances covered. Using SMART, the inspectors add any discovered violations to common database. This program also helps to indirectly monitor the abundance of rare animals, as in addition to “Raid Route” and “Violations” forms the inspectors on the spot using GPS must place a mark in “Tiger & Leopard” form if they find any traces of these felines’ vital activities.
“We hold a quarterly meeting dedicated to analysis of our work on SMART program, - says Evgeny Stoma. – At this meeting we analyze performance of both operational groups and individual inspectors. This gives an opportunity to determine the most important areas of national park for patrolling and to identify the inspectors worthy of a commendation. Of course, this program is not a cure-all solution, but it well deserves being called an effective tool in the work of a SPNR security service”.

This opinion is supported by data of results of inspectors’ work obtained for the last 4 years in the territory of National Park “Land of the Leopard”. As the number of raids grows, there are fewer violations discovered, and this fact serves as the main measure of effectiveness of security department’s work.

SMART that proved itself as an efficient system is being introduced into other SPNRs, too. At present, this program is adopted in 7 of 9 federal reserves and national parks of Russia where Amur tigers reside.

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Organization Information

Phoenix Fund

Location: Vladivostok, Primorski Krai - Russia
Website: http:/​/​fundphoenix.org/​en/​
Project Leader:
Sergei Bereznuk
Vladivostok, Primorsky krai Russia
$60,224 raised of $100,000 goal
 
1,328 donations
$39,776 to go
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