Animals
 Russia
Project #6144

Help Save Last 30 Amur Leopards from Extinction

by Phoenix Fund
(c) Land of the Leopard
(c) Land of the Leopard

Dear friends,

We would like to present you our annual report on anti-poaching work in the Land of the Leopard National Park that you supported generously during the last year. We are very happy with the results achieved by the law-enforcement teams of the protected area and the growing number of Amur leopards is the best confirmation of this success!

In 2016, the rangers of the Land of the Leopard National Park (LLNP) worked long hours and risked their lives working in remote areas and approaching suspects, who far more often than not were carrying a weapon. To provide adequate protection to the assigned areas the rangers regularly:

•          patrolled on foot, by motorized vehicles and boats;

•          checked camps, winter cabins and recreation centres located in the protected area;

•          made night ambushes on public roads leading to or running through the park;

•          tracked hunters over snow;

•          conducted roadblocks;

•          conducted car searches to confiscate game meat and illegal firearms;

•          encouraged locals to be aware and pass on tips and leads to local authorities about potential poaching activities.

 

Land of the Leopard was the first area where we started introducing MIST (Law Enforcement Monitoring Program) and have already replaced MIST with upgraded new version SMART. This protected area (PA) is more prepared to work with SMART autonomously compared to other PAs. But we still have to continue to assist them and consult when necessary.

New director of the national Park Tatyana Baranovskaya fully supports the importance and necessity of working with SMART.

Poaching has significantly reduced in the national park now compared to the years before the introduction of MIST/SMART here. However, poaching is constantly transforming in the same way as bacteria transform into superbugs and become resistant to antibiotics.Hunting with the use of spotlight is one of such transformations. If formerly poachers just entered the forest and killed animals, now they shoot right from the road. Moreover, it is difficult to catch them as they know all patrol vehicles of the protected area. There were cases when rangers had to trace the poachers by their own vehicles. Even after arresting violators, sometimes it is a challenge to charge them with a crime. To serve charges on them, it is necessary to have enough evidence to call for police and initiate criminal proceeding. From year to year, poachers become better trained, equipped and experienced. For example, some poachers try to use special devices to eavesdrop on telephone conversations of rangers. Certainly, our rangers have to regularly advance their skills and improve their outfit and equipment in order to be ahead of poachers and prevent illegal activities on the protected area. There are four well-equipped anti-poaching teams operating in the national park now. During patrols, rangers use UAVs to discover forest fires and track poachers”, says director of the national park Tatyana Baranovskaya.

During the reported year, the rangers seized 5 illegal fishing devices and 2 firearms, revealed 208 violations, including 9 cases of illegal hunting, 3 cases of illegal fishing, 3 cases of illegal logging, 193 cases of trespassing. They initiated 11 criminal proceedings and imposed fines of up to 634,000 roubles ($10,718).

In 2016, the distance travelled on foot, distance travelled by motorized vehicles and patrol time increased compared with the same indicators in 2011-2015. Over the previous two years patrol effort appeared to be leveling off and possibly reaching what we thought might be a plateau. So it was a surprise to observe another jump in distances travelled and time invested in patrolling in 2016.

At Land of the Leopard National Park, results per effort-unit show a strong downward trend and reached in 2016 the lowest level we have measured during the six years for which we have data. This is a strong indication that pressures have substantially been reduced at the park.

In 2016, the number of Amur leopards increased by 17 leopards that were born in Land of the Leopard National Park. “We have not added these cubs to the total number of the leopards, which is still officially 80, because not all cubs survive in the wild. According to the simultaneous count of Amur tigers and Amur leopards- 2015, about 57 Amur leopards were recorded by camera traps in the Land of the Leopard National Park alone. Overall, the number of rare cats in the national park has increased by 10 tiger cubs and 26 leopard cubs over the past 18 months. About 20 Amur tigers co-exist with leopards in the Park”, says Tatyana Baranovskaya.

(c) Land of the Leopard
(c) Land of the Leopard

On December 1, state inspectors of the Land of the Leopard National Park detained poachers, who killed two sika-deer on the protected territory. Hunters that shot the game from the highway were caught red-handed when they were butchering and dressing out the corpses.

During the regular patrol the inspectors heard the sounds of gun shots. The team immediately headed to the scene. After finding footprints leading into the forest, the inspectors detained intruders in a matter of minutes. Such a sudden meeting with the state inspectors caught poachers off guard, and they had no time to hide the trophies.

The poachers were two residents of the Barabash village. They were hunting directly from the state highway A189 Razdolnoe - Hassan. The availability of the highway passing through the Land of the Leopard National Park often attracts attention of poachers. Therefore, inspectors pay special attention to this road.

"Trying to illegally hunt ungulates from the state road, poachers faultily assume that they can avoid punishment - said Evgeny Stoma, Deputy Director for protection of the Land of the Leopard National Park. - However, they are deeply mistaken, hoping to get away scot-free. Shooting animals in the protected area is a serious crime for which the poachers must be prosecuted to the full severity of the law."

Having apprehended offenders, state inspectors contacted the police. Police officers arrived at the crime scene for investigation.  A bullet was removed from the poached deer. The detainees were taken to the Police office for further investigation and criminal prosecution.

Poachers are the main enemies of the Amur leopard. Their illegal actions represent a direct threat to the populations of ungulates - the main prey base of the rarest big cat on the planet. Currently, a survey of the ungulate population is being conducted in the Land of the Leopard. And sadly, the report would be short of at least two animals.

(c) Land of the Leopard
(c) Land of the Leopard
(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
 

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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
$67,277 raised of $70,000 goal
 
1,398 donations
$2,723 to go
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