Animals
 Russia
Project #6144

Help Save Last 30 Amur Leopards from Extinction

by 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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Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office and Chair of the Far Eastern Leopards Supervisory Board, said at the Eastern Economic Forum that the number of the Amur leopards, which only recently was below 30, has nearly tripled.

According to THE FAR EASTERN (Amur) LEOPARD PROGRAMME, there are at least 80 Amur leopards living in the wild worldwide. The researchers from Land of the Leopard National Park and Beijing Normal University arrived at this conclusion based on leopard photo monitoring data obtained both in Russia and China.

Earlier, Russian researchers operated using data obtained solely in Russia. According to photo monitoring and winter leopard track count, it became known in 2015 that there are about 70 spotted predators residing in Russia. However, no data on the number of leopards in China was available then.

"Of course, the fact that the global population size of the Amur leopard is higher is great news,” Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi said. “The fact that the leopard is now also living in China is the result of many years of work by Russian specialists. We hope that our Chinese colleagues will join us in these activities and will help bring the number of the Far Eastern leopards in the wild to a stable level, thus protecting this species from the threat of extinction."

That increase in leopard population became possible thanks to great attention attracted towards conservation of rare felines by Russian government, NGOs and international community.

However, it is due to highly effective work of law-enforcement rangers that the leopards are safe in the southwest Primorye. With your generous support the anti-poaching teams of the Land of the Leopard National Park were able to safeguard the leopards from poaching and other threats.

From June through August the team carried out 63 anti-poaching patrols in the Land of the Leopard national park 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. There were no poachers in the park in the reported months and only a few minor violations were registered.

We hope that thanks to your continuous support we all be able to keep the numbers of Amur leopard growing!

One year old Amur leopard cub with an injured paw was found in the Land of the Leopard (LoL) National Park near the border with China. According to experts the leopard lost its fingers after getting into a poacher’s trap or a snare.

Russian border guards were the first who found the cub. They noticed a leopard tossing around one place not leaving the area. It was obvious that something was wrong with the animal. Having realized that, the border guards immediately reported about the incident to the national park authorities. The LoL staff arrived at the site shortly together with the specialists from the Primorsky Environmental Control Department (Rosprirodnadzor), WCS and the experts from Nadezhdinsky veterinary station.

Due to the injury the exhausted and frightened kitten would not let people to approach it but could not escape. It was clear that the animal will die without veterinary help. The experts decided to immobilize the cub and transported it to the wildlife rehabilitation center in Alekseevka village. Leopard’s examination showed that the four fingers on the front paw were missing and there was an inflammation around the wound. The cub had a fever heat when it got to the rehab and without treatment it could die within the few days. The poor leopard suffered due to the fault of poachers who placed their traps on the border. After the surgery the condition of the patient is satisfactory. Veterinarians from around the world are involved in the discussion on the further treatment for the animal. However, this cub will never return to the wild because it lost the ability to hunt successfully without the fingers and claws.

With your donations the Phoenix Fund will continue to provide support to the anti-poaching teams of the Land of the Leopard National Park to ensure safety of the rare cats at least within the borders of the protected area. 

Unmanned aerial vehicle with a camera and video recorder - quadcopter - appeared at the disposal of the Land of the Leopard National Park. The device and a series of training sessions for the park’s rangers were provided by the Phoenix Fund.

Earlier, the rangers of the Land of the Leopard had already had the opportunity to witness the patrol effectiveness of the copter during several presentations. And this time Phoenix donated first UAV to the national park just in time with the beginning of fire-hazardous season.

"Certainly, it is a valuable gift to the national park, - says Eugene Stoma, Deputy Director of the Land of the Leopard. - Performance characteristics of the copter will allow monitoring fires, controlling poaching, tracking wildlife conflict, and conducting animals’ counts. I think this equipment would be very effective in the inspector's work. "

The rangers had passed a series of lessons learning how to operate the UAV. The first training was carried out in Vladivostok where the inspectors received theoretical knowledge and later they were able to demonstrate new knowledge in practice under the supervision of the Phoenix Fund's staff.

"The crew from the Land of the Leopard is promising. The guys are young and technically competent", - says Sergey Bereznuk, director of the Phoenix Fund. - They absorbed all the necessary information rapidly and have proven that they can put it into practice. During the training session using the UAV inspectors managed to detect a fire, which at that time was being extinguished by their colleagues."

Air monitoring of the Land of the Leopard will be held as needed. In fire-hazardous period copter will help identify wild fires and monitor the situation, depending on the wind speed and direction. In addition, it is planned to purchase two more similar devices that will allow for conducting air patrols by the three anti-poaching teams of the park simultaneously.

We want to thank our dear supporters for their contribution to this important Amur leopard conservation project. With your help we will make sure the best practice to fight poaching is used by law-enforcement teams in the Land of the Leopard National Park!

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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
$48,834 raised of $60,000 goal
 
1,208 donations
$11,166 to go
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