Project #6144

Help Save Last 30 Amur Leopards from Extinction

by Phoenix Fund

In January, the South team conducted 24 anti-poaching patrols on the territory of the Land of the Leopard National Park. Patrols were conducted both during the daytime and at night, mostly on the southern part of the protected area. Sometimes, the team also visited central and northern parts of the national park to reveal and prevent wildlife crimes. Patrols were carried out spontaneously, so that poachers could not plan their illegal actions. There were a few joint patrols with police officers and border guards. In January, the rangers observed remarkably high concentrations of hunters in the vicinity of roads hunting game at night, hunting from a vehicle or with the aid of a spotlight. Hunters did not want to hunt on foot due to deep snow this winter and preferred hunting from their vehicles. Also, by the drive-by hunting they could avoid to be tracked and caught by rangers. Moreover, ungulates descended from the hills into river valleys bordering with main roads in the area.

On January 4, during a night patrol the team spotted a vehicle near the Upper Brusya River and suspected that some guys were hunting there at night with the aid of a spotlight. The team members made an ambush at a place where the poachers could be easily stopped and arrested. The rangers set out a decoy deer to catch poachers who illegally commit drive-by deer shootings from their vehicles. They concealed themselves in the brush on the other side of the road and waited. The decoy deer was too tempting. As soon as the poacher approached the decoy deer and fired a shot from their vehicle or the road, the rangers swooped in. Unfortunately, the poachers managed to drive away, but the rangers saw a license plate and informed the police in order to identify an owner of the vehicle and investigate the case. 

On January 6, the team chased nighttime hunters. When the rangers stopped a vehicle of hunters, they inspected the jeep and found a rifle and a lamp that poachers used for nigh hunting. No killed animals were found. Probably, they threw it out of the vehicle trying to escape.  Suddenly, the violators decided to escape the scene and recklessly knocked down one of the rangers. After 15 minutes, the jeep with the violators was stopped by traffic police. A criminal proceeding was initiated.

On January 24, when patrolling an area near Narvinsky wildlife overpass, the team spotted footprints leading deep inside the protected area. It was decided to track down trespassers. Only after a 5-hour pursuit the rangers caught two men with two rifles one of which turned out illegal. The detainees were taken to local police station.

In January, the team restored old feeding stations for ungulates and built a new one. Also, the rangers gave two lectures for schoolchildren in Zarubino (on January 14) and Barabash (on January 28).

In February, the team carried on patrolling the assigned territory. All in all, the team conducted 20 patrols. Besides anti-poaching activities, the rangers took part in wildlife survey.

On February 9, while patrolling the southern part of Land of the Leopard National Park, the team detained a man for unauthorized presence. An administrative citation was issued upon the violator. Later, on February 13, the same man was apprehended by the rangers again and was fined.

Evgeny Stoma, the team’s leader, noted that the number of intruders as well as the amount of illegal hunting decreased significantly. He suggests that it could be a result of regular patrols in the area and the frozen snow hindering movements in the forest. However, there were three cases of illegal hunting from vehicles.  Unfortunately, it was impossible to catch the violators.

On February 17, the team received a call from residents of Barabash village that a tiger approached close to their settlement. The rangers instructed the people on main rules of human behavior in case of encounter with the predator and asked to call them back if the tiger returned.

Additionally, the team together with Natalia Drobysheva, experienced educator, visited a school in Slavyanka and gave lectures on careful attitude towards nature.

In March, the team conducted 24 patrols.

Frequent foot patrols in hard-to-access areas of the national park did not reveal any sign of people’s presence there (no tracks) which proved that nobody entered that territory illegally in winter. Poachers mostly concentrated along roads and near human settlements where there was a high concentration of ungulates that time. In March, there were no poaching cases registered on the protected area, because March is a season of poaching of sea cucumber and therefore poachers focused their illegal activities from forest to the sea.

During foot patrols the rangers found a few artificial salt-licks for ungulates and tree stands installed for illegal hunting. They recorded coordinates of their discovery with the use of GPS units and will keep an eye on this area in summer when poachers are more likely to return there. 

There were several meetings with officers from Federal Security Bureau in order to discuss opportunities for cooperation aimed at prevention wildlife crimes.

In the middle of March, a six-member volunteer fire-fighting team began their activities. The team’s task was to prevent forest fires on the southern part of Land of the Leopard National Park. On March 31, several fires deliberately started by unknown persons along the railroad between Bomburovo and Pozharsky railway stations were promptly extinguished by the team.

Additionally, the team delivered forage for ungulates to feeding stations and gave lectures on nature for schoolchildren in Primorsky and Bezverkhovo villages.

Tiger prey
Tiger prey
Forest fire-fighting
Forest fire-fighting

In October, the patrol work was generally conducted on the assigned southern territories of the Land of the Leopard National Park (LLNP). The team also patrolled northern and central parts of the PA. Some of the patrols were carried out with the involvement of operative employees of border troops, Primorsky Fishery Management Department and Regional Fishing Inspection.

The team carried out 30 patrols, 12 of them were productive (36 administrative citations for trespassing were issued, and also one criminal investigation was initiated). The work was conducted mainly during evening and night time.

In the end of October, the inspectors registered a splash in trespassing violations, such as entrance to the territory on a personal vehicle, illegal fishing of salmon, illegal camping, etc. These violations, first of all, were prompted by the beginning of salmon spawning season in the rivers of the protected area. It is worth mentioning that this season there were less local poachers from Khasansky district and more visitors from Ussuriisky, Spasky, Volnonadezhdensky districts. The decrease in violations among local population shows that local people are well aware of PA borders, the status of the national park and punishment for disobeying laws, but there is no such knowledge among citizens from other districts of Primorsky krai.

Considering the circumstances the team decided to concentrate attention on the rivers’ surroundings and the Narva River in particular. In the first half of the month the inspectors used a rubber boat to go downstream the river. However, violators quickly adapted to the team’s methods of work and changed their poaching strategies. Given that, the inspectors also changed their work tactics that brought good results.

Also during the reported period, the team did not lose control over forest territories of the Park. Several foot patrols were carried out in remote forests. These checks were aimed to reveal poaching. However, no hunting violations were revealed.

In October, the new team of fire-fighting volunteers was fully equipped. Fortunately, there were no ignitions in the southern territory of the LLNP.

In November, the South team conducted 26 anti-poaching patrols, issued 10 administrative citations and initiated a criminal proceeding against two groups of fishermen. While patrolling, the inspectors were charged with prevention illegal hunting and fishing. Patrols were conducted both during the daytime and at night. Sometimes, border guards and specialists of Regional Fishing Inspection joined the team to conduct joint patrols.

During the first part of November the team’s attention was paid to the prevention of violations near spawning rivers within the protected area, especially the Narva River. As a result, 10 administrative citations were issued on violators. When patrolling the Narva River, the inspectors detained two groups of anglers and took them to the local police station to initiate a criminal proceeding against them.

In the second part of November the team focused their attention on the forested area to prevent illegal hunting. On November 20, while patrolling the Upper Alimovka River, the team found foot prints leading deep in the wood of the protected area. When tracking the footprints, the inspectors discovered the remnants of wild roe deer. Unfortunately, further investigation did not let identify suspects who killed the animal. On November 21, during a patrol along the Narva River the team sighted an Amur leopard and took footage and photos of the rare animal.

Besides anti-poaching activities, the team also was involved in fire-fighting. On November 14, a fire was discovered on the wetlands of Bezverhovsky hunting lease, adjacent territory to the national park. The South team in cooperation with volunteers arrived on the scene and extinguished the fire promptly.

Additionally, the team delivered lectures on careful attitude towards nature at local schools in Tsukanovo and Gvozdevo villages.

In December, the South team conducted 28 anti-poaching patrols, participated in tiger/leopard survey in Land of the Leopard National Park, read two lectures for schoolchildren and initiated two criminal proceedings. Patrols were conducted both during the daytime and at night, mostly on the southern part of the protected area. While patrolling, the inspectors were charged with prevention illegal hunting and fishing. Sometimes, border guards and specialists of Regional Fishing Inspection joined the team to conduct joint patrols.

 On December 11, the inspectors detained a hunter for illegally killing of a pheasant while in possession of an illegal firearm. A criminal proceeding was initiated. Analogous violation was revealed on December 14 when the inspectors heard a gunshot and then managed to stop a car with a poacher. During a search of the car the rangers found an uncased rifle and a dead pheasant. A criminal proceeding was initiated.

No more violations were revealed in December, however more than once unauthorized presence of people was recorded in the protected area. Such facts coupled with the discoveries of dressed wild animals indicated that people came there to poach. Unfortunately, anti-poaching efforts used by the team did not let catch poachers. 

In December, two birds (a falcon and an owl) were found injured. After a few days of rehabilitation the falcon was released back to the wild, but the owl could not regain its health so quickly. The owl’s wing was seriously injured and it is more likely that it cannot fly anymore. The bird will be kept at special enclosure until vets will make final decision about its future.

From December 24 to December 26 the team participated in wildlife survey. On December 3 and December 10 the inspectors read lectures for schoolchildren in Kraskino and Posiet villages.


The team at work
The team at work

In July, the South team carried out 27 anti-poaching patrols. When patrolling on the assigned area, the inspectors revealed the following violations:

On July 8, two men were detained in Leopardovy WR for violating the article 8.39 of Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation, i.e. violating rules for protection and use of natural resources in areas under special protection. On July 9, another man was apprehended in the same area in connection with the same violation. On July 15, two more villagers were stopped near the Narva River in Leopardovy WR and were issued administrative citations pursuant to the article 8.39 of Administrative Offences Code of the Russian Federation. On July 26, two locals were detained for violating rules of the Leopardovy WR. All these violations were revealed on the protected area near spawning areas of the Narva and Poima Rivers, which indicates that despite its strictly protected status, this area still attracts local community during salmon spawning season. People kept visiting these places despite high probability of being caught and punished. Given these conditions, the team leader decided to focus the team’s attention on these areas. Almost every day, the team conducted boat patrols along the spawning rivers in the southern part of the protected area in order to detain violators catching salmon with the use of spears and harpoon guns at daytime and with fishing nets at night. It is worth mentioning that most violations such as illegal setting of fishing nets were revealed near a camp of road construction workers who were building Narvinsky pass.  Unfortunately, the team did not catch a worker red-handed and could not charge anyone with those violations. The inspectors had a talk with a foreman and asked to prevent such violations in future.  

The same situation happened on the neighboring Bezverhovsky military firing ground. Servicemen supposedly set nets in the Narva River, and unfortunately nobody was caught red-handed yet.

On July 12, the team members participated in face-to-face interrogation regarding the poaching case revealed in June. During the interrogation the charged offender denied categorically his involvement in night hunt.

In August, the South team carried out 26 anti-poaching patrols. August is known as salmon-spawning season that is why the team focused its attention on areas where spawning rivers run. Intensive patrolling on the spawning rivers did not reveal any violation. One of the main reasons could be the almost total absence of typhoons that did not let the salmon make their way up to the Narva and Poima rivers and other streams to spawn. Accordingly, the rivers did not attract much attention of violators. Additionally, constant presence of the team in the area suppressed poaching activities there.

Besides patrolling along the rivers, the team continued patrolling the forest where people were expected to appear in search for ginseng roots or other wild plants. The inspectors checked areas of woodland that were frequented by poachers before. Acting on a tip-off, the team took measures to catch violators who were gathering ginseng roots in the China-Russia border region. Unfortunately, the “ginseng diggers” managed to escape.

In September, the team conducted 26 anti-poaching patrols and issued 14 administrative citations. While patrolling the inspectors were charged with prevention illegal hunting, gathering wild plants and fishing. The team patrolled along the spawning rivers and deep in the forest where people were expected to appear in search for ginseng roots or other wild plants or animals.

On September 1-9, two men were stopped and fined for illegal presence in Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge.

On September 11, during an ambush at night the inspectors detained two violators who illegally entered the protected area. From September 12 to September 25, nine local people were apprehended for illegal presence in Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge.

Besides anti-poaching activities, the team members also gave a lecture with schoolchildren in Vityaz village.   

Arrested poacher
Arrested poacher

In June, the South team of the Land of the Leopard protected area conducted 23 anti-poaching patrols in order to prevent and detect any crimes in the protected area and adjacent territories. Most of patrols were carried out on the southern part of Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge and south-western part of Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve. 

While patrolling the assigned territory, at twilight night on June 26 the team spotted a group of people hunting illegally with the use of spotlight in Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve. After a short pursuit, the inspectors caught one of the violators with a headlight in his hands. But his mate put up resistance, used his firearm threatening and shooting in the direction of the inspectors, and finally managed to escape. The detained poacher was taken to Khasan police station for further investigation. No other violations were revealed in June.

In addition to anti-poaching activities, the South team continued supplying salt to the salt-licks and setting up information boards and warning signs along the borders of Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge, especially in areas where a huge influx of tourists and holidaymakers was expected.

Besides, the inspectors gathered information on the presence of wildlife. Thus, they found leopard tracks (6.3 cm paw width) on the north-western border of Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve. Also, they heard tiger roaring within a distance of 30 meters during a foot patrol along the Upper Brusya River.

There was a call from a farmer who informed about a leopard attack on his calf. The team went to the scene to verify the obtained information. Upon arrival at the deer farm, the inspectors could not find positive proof of livestock depredation.  

In May for the first time the Boarder team of Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge actually worked behind engineering structures of the Russian-Chinese boarder. The area is a habitat of the Amur leopards and its protection from Chinese poachers is a highest priority for the law-enforcement team.

Although there were difficulties that arose from the need to obtain a permission to enter the territory the Boarder team finally got it and patrolled the area for eight days in the reported month. Such a short time, however, allowed the inspectors to scope out the present situation “behind the fence”.

During the joint patrols with frontier guards the team revealed five camps (bivouacs) of Chinese ginseng roots collectors, four hidden spired metallic whips (presumable for sticking the animals) and found a fernbrakes procurement. Twice the team tried to detain pickers but because of piecemeal actions of frontiers the violators managed to escape to Chinese boarder. The team will now work to coordinate their actions with the frontier guards to avoid such situations.

Also in May the team exchanged experience in law-enforcement with the staff of Kronodsky nature reserve that came to the Land of the Leopard from Kamchatka.

All in all, in the reported period the Boarder team conducted 32 patrols, covered 843 km on the vehicle, 114 km on foot and 73 km on ATV, ambuscaded for eight and the half hours.

We would like thank all of our GlobalGiving supporters who make the leopard protection possible!


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Organization Information

Phoenix Fund

Location: Vladivostok, Primorski Krai - Russia
Website: http:/​/​​en/​
Project Leader:
Sergei Bereznuk
Vladivostok, Primorsky krai Russia
$52,992 raised of $60,000 goal
1,247 donations
$7,008 to go
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