China, Russian provinces agree to first transboundary protected area to Protect Tiger

Posted on 30 August 2010

Hunchun, China - Jilin province of China and neighbouring Primorsky province in Russia agreed today to collaborate formally in working towards the first transboundary Amur tiger protected area amidst celebrations for the second annual Amur Tiger Cultural Festival in the northeastern Chinese city of Hunchun.

The signed agreement, facilitated by WWF, the global conservation organization, will help wildlife authorities eventually establish a transboundary protected area – a cooperative conservation network that crosses country borders - in the provinces that are home to the world’s largest big cat. The population of the highly endangered Amur tiger is currently estimated at 500.

In the agreement signed by Jilin Provincial Forestry Department of China and two Russia agencies – the Wildlife and Hunting Department of Primorsky Province and Special Inspection “TIGER” of Russia (official name of the Bureau on Protection of Rare and Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) – the two sides will work together in establishing a tiger conservation protected area in both provinces, as well as partner to restore the endangered species.

“A new transboundary protected area would provide a wider and healthier habitat for Amur tigers and other endangered species, such as the Far East leopard, musk deer and goral,” said Yu Changchun, Director of Conservation Department of Jilin Forestry Department.

“While tigers – the species at the top of the eco-system – are better conserved through the agreement, other species, the forest habitat and all the bio-diversity resources will also benefit from this protected area,” said Dr. Zhu Chunquan, WWF-China’s Conservation Director.

As part of the agreement, Jilin and Primorsky provinces will increase information sharing on Amur tiger and Far East leopard protection, work to adopt identical monitoring systems for tigers and their prey, and conduct joint ecological surveys and develop plans to launch an anti-poaching campaign along the China-Russia boarder.

Destruction and fragmentation of habitat, poaching and lack of prey have reduced the number of wild Amur tigers. One of six remaining subspecies of tigers, (and sometimes referred to as Siberian tiger), the Amur tiger is primarily found in eastern Russia, with a small number in northeastern China. Among that population, 20 tigers have been periodically spotted within the borders of China’s Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.

“This agreement is a great boost for Amur tiger habitats in Russia and China. Since both countries play a crucial role in terms of global tiger recovery, a future transboundary network would represent a big step in WWF’s global tiger conservation effort,” said Dr. Sergey Aramilev, the Biodiversity Coordinator for Amur Branch of WWF-Russia, which is also involved in promoting the agreement. “There’s a lot of work to be done to implement this agreement, such as making sure it receives proper government funding, but this is a major step forward nonetheless.”

The agreement marks another milestone during the Chinese Year of the Tiger in 2010. WWF launched the TX2 campaign early this year, which seeks to double the number of wild tigers by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022. A groundbreaking tiger conservation declaration from the 13 countries that still have wild tiger populations was prepared in Bali, Indonesia in July this year, and is due to be signed before the close of Year of the Tiger at a tiger conservation summit hosted by Russia. The Declaration seeks to create a tiger recovery program that is global in scope while also promoting transboundary cooperation amongst the 13 tiger range countries.

Background of the Agreement:

The Amur Tiger Cultural Festival, which runs from Aug. 29-30, will include events such as a tiger conservation and economic development forum, costume parade, art performances and an ecological tour of tiger habitat. The China-Russia agreement will be one of the highlights of this year’s festival.

In addition to promoting the transboundary protected area, WWF-China successfully helped establish a protected area for tigers in Jilin. It is also working with northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, another important home to Amur tigers, to bring it under the fold of the transboundary protected area. If this plan comes to fruition, the protected area for Amur tigers and other threatened species would double.

While over 95 percent of Amur tigers are now found in Russia, the situation differed in the 1950s. An estimated 50 individuals were then found in the Russian Far East, while across the border in China, the total population stood at about 200. Thanks to anti-poaching efforts and other effective conservation policies, Russia’s tiger population recovered and has remained stable.