New ground for Amur Tigers in Northeast China



Posted on 11 March 2010

Findings from a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) report show rare Amur tigers have over 38,000km2 of potential habitat in China, supporting hopes that the critically endangered species can bounce back in its traditional habitat.

The “Technical Report on the Identification of Potential Tiger Habitat in the Changbaishan Ecosystem, Northeast China” points out that Amur tigers are extremely endangered in Northeast China, where the species was historically widely distributed. However, vast tracts of natural forest still exist throughout eastern Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces that wild tigers could re-colonize.

“Re-colonization of previously occupied tiger habitat in Northeast China is a very real possibility if steps are taken to identify and manage these landscapes,” says Dr. Zhu Chunquan, Conservation Director of Operations at WWF-China.

The current population of wild Amur Tigers is estimated at 18-24 individuals in China, while adjacent forested habitat in the Russian Far East holds an between 430-500 tigers. Although there is little evidence that a stable, reproducing population exists in Northeast China, there are regular reports of tigers in this region, and confirmed sightings of tigers regularly crossing the border between Russia and China.

The “Changbaishan Habitat Report” was produced to identify areas where tigers could potentially survive in the wild. Another central goal was to determine where sufficiently large blocks of habitat could retain populations of tigers, identify where connectivity between patches of habitat exists or could be created to link populations, and prioritize areas on the basis of their importance for tiger recovery in Northeast China.

“There are less than 50 wild tigers in China right now, but the Amur tiger is the most promising subspecies for increasing the number of wild tigers in China. However, there is a long way to go before the wild population can be deemed ‘restored’. We urgently need to address the factors causing the death of wild tigers, otherwise, when the next year of the tiger arrives there will be no more wild tiger left in China,” said Dr. Xie Yan, Country Director of WCS China Program.

The results of the report show that there are approximately 38,500 km2 of potential tiger habitat remaining in the Changbaishan landscape that is divided into nine distinguishable Tiger Conservation Priority Areas (TPA).

Four of these areas - Hunchun-Wangqing (14,239 km2), Changbaishan (8420 km2), Southern Zhangguangcailing (5373 km2), and Mulin (3231 km2) include 81 per cent of potential tiger habitat, and have the greatest potential for recovery of tigers, and the potential ecological corridors linking these TPAs have been indentified. Amur tiger conservation recommendations, such as officially recognizing tiger conservation priority areas, and establishing protected areas as core areas, were also outlined in the report.

Tigers play an irreplaceable role in maintaining the health and function of forest ecosystems. However, the world’s wild tigers are lingering on the edge of extinction.

Within the last decade, wild tiger habitats have decreased by 40 per cent, with the species now occupying only 7 per cent of its historical range around the world.

For more information, please contact
Chris Chaplin, Communications Officer, WWF-China +86 10 6511 6237, cchaplin@wwfchina.org

Notes to Editors

To download a copy of the report in English and Chinese, visit

http://www.wwfchina.org/english/downloads/Changbai%20Habitat/WWF_Changbai_Tiger_Habitat_Report031110.pdf

WWF, WCS and experts from Northeast Normal University, KORA, the University of Montana, and China’s State Forestry Administration, the Jilin and Heilongjiang Provincial Forestry Departments as well as Industrial Groups contributed to the “Changbaishan Habitat Report.”