() 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!