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Amur tiger numbers on the rise, say latest figures

27 may 2015
The population of the Amur tiger increased over the last ten years and may be up to 540 animals. The population of the Amur leopard is estimated at 60-70 animals.

These figures were announced on May 27, 2015, by Sergey Donskoy, head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin and members of the Administration while reporting on the interim results of the simultaneous census of the Amur tiger and Amur leopard.

The census was organized and carried out by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation, its subordinate agencies like the Federal Service for Supervision over Natural Resources Exploitation, nature reserves and national parks, as well as by the Administrations of Primorsky, Khabarovsky, Amurskaya, and Evreiskaya provinces, the Russian Academy of Science with the support of the Amur Tiger Center and WWF.

The census covered over 150 000 square kilometers of the rare animals’ habitats in the Russian Far East. To survey the area and measure the tracks about 1500 transects were laid and around 2000 staff of federal and regional protected areas and Hunting Departments were engaged as well as professional biologists, wildlife biologists, and skilled hunters.

As noted by Sergey Donskoy, the census results prove that the population of tiger has stabilized and shows a tendency for increasing in some parts of the area. According to the interim results of this year’s census, at present there are 480-540 Amur tigers in its entire range. Within the Russian part of the Amur tiger range its population was distributed as follows: 310-330 adult tigers and 70-85 cubs were registered in Primorsky Province, 80-95 adult and 20-30 cubs in Khabarovsky Province. Besides, 4 and 2 adult tigers live in Evreiskaya and Amurskaya Provinces respectively.

The results of the previous tiger census hold in 2005 indicated there were 423-502 animals.
According to the interim results of the census, the number of the Amur leopard is as high as 60-70 animals; 57 leopards were registered by camera traps in Land of the Leopard National Park alone. The Amur leopard census was conducted by specialists of Land of the Leopard National Park with the support of the Amur Leopard Center, an autonomous non-governmental organization.

As was noted by Sergey Donskoy, such result were made possible by the development of the protected areas network when in Primorsky and Khabarovsky Provinces five national parks were established including Land of the Leopard National Park.

The census activities were funded by the Amur Tiger Center, WWF Russia, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russia. About 2000 specialists were involved in the field research. Wide use of GPS/GLONASS navigators and camera traps as well as the control checking of a significant portion of the implemented routes allow responsible structures to trust the received results.

One of the important conditions for conservation of the Amur tiger and Amur leopard is the anti-poaching efforts which have been conducted very actively in recent years. Toughening punishment for poaching rare species and introducing criminal responsibility for illegal hunting, storage and trafficking of endangered animals, their parts and derivates has played a significant role in combating poaching.
Analysis of the received data shows that the efforts to raise the number of wild ungulates which are the main prey for tiger and leopard are also regarded as an important factor. The programs for ungulates management are actively run by national parks and by a number of hunting clubs. It is here where the significant growth of tiger is registered compared to 2005 census results.

«I am pleased to note that the number of tiger has been raised in all model areas WWF has been working with for many years, notes Igor Chestin, head of WWF Russia. For instance, the southwestern Primorye and the Northern Tiger project’s area in Khabarovsky Province shows twofold increase in tiger number compared to 2005 survey. The growth of predators number is registered in the Bikin River basin as well as in the southern Sikhote-Alin Mountains, namely in Lazovsky and Olginsky Districts of Primorye».

At the same time, areas with decreased tiger number were identified. These areas negatively influenced the overall population numbers in the Russian portion of the species’ range. These “painful points” are where governmental agencies and public organizations should concentrate their further efforts.

«We have passed the phase of assumptions. Now we can be certain of the predators’ numbers and the changes that took place in the populations, notes Sergey Aramilev, head of the Amur Tiger Center, Ph. D. Therefore it is extremely important for us now to identify unfavorable areas of the range and do all possible to improve the status of these areas».

It should be remembered that the announced results are interim; they will be further analyzed. The final results of the Amur tiger and Amur leopard census in Russia will be released in October 2015.

Yury Darman, head of WWF Russia Amur branch at the tiger print in the snow
© WWF Russia / Svetlana Titova
A map with WWf model areas and tiger habitats
© WWF Russia
Amur tiger captured on film by a camera trap set in Ussuriisky Nature Reserve
© Ussuriisky Nature Reserve