Sunday, July 31, 2011

Siberian Tiger Cubs at Zurich Zoo

Three Siberian Tiger cubs were born on May 15, 2011 at the Zürich Zoo in Switzerland. There's one male named Lailek, and two females named Luva and Liska. Mom Elena was born in 2004 in the Tierpark Hellabrunn, Munich, and has been at the Zürich zoo since March, 2010. The father, Coto, was born in June 2002 at the Zürich Zoo and in fact was the last cub born there before this trio, his offspring.

Also known as Amur Tigers, this species is considered the world's largest cat. They they are mostly found in the birch forests of eastern Russia, though some do live in China and North Korea. According to National Geographic, there were once eight tiger subspecies, but three became extinct during the 20th century.
Over the last hundred years, hunting and forest destruction have reduced overall tiger populations from hundreds of thousands to perhaps 3,000 to 5,000. Tigers are hunted as trophies and also for body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine. All five remaining tiger subspecies are endangered, and many protection programs are in place. Poaching is a reduced—but still very significant—threat to Siberian tigers.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Siberian tiger habitat under threat

Key tiger habitat could be logged

The protests have followed an application by the wood harvesting and export company JSC Les Export for a timber lease in the Bikinsky Pine Nut Harvesting Zone in the Bikin River Basin, in Primorsky Province, Russia. This area forms one of the largest intact tracts of old-growth Korean pine-broadleaf forest in the world, and is a vital habitat for remaining populations of the Siberian, or Amur, tiger.

JSC Les Export has already been criticised after gaining approval for two forest leases earlier this year, also in vital tiger habitat and in areas which form an important wildlife corridor connecting the Russian population of Siberian tigers with the Chinese population across the border.

WWF Russia and the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Primorsky Province are now leading calls to cancel the new logging lease to protect tiger habitat in Primorsky Province.

Proposed World Heritage Site

In November 2010, the Bikin River Basin was proposed as a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Siberian tiger, whose populations have rebounded in recent decades but still face many threats.

Speaking on the possible timber lease, the Director of WWF Russia’s Amur branch, Yury Darman, said, “We regard this as a betrayal. JSC Les Export previously agreed that it would not use timber from pine nut harvesting zones or protected areas. JSC Les Export’s actions go against the company’s commitment to work towards certification under the Forest Stewardship Council, an independent organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.”

Impact of logging on local people

The timber lease would also impact on the lives of the native residents of Bikin, the Udegei and Nanai, whose livelihoods depend on traditional uses of the region’s forests. The forests have been under lease since 2009 by the Indigenous Peoples’ Association, for the processing of pine nuts and medicinal plants. Residents have petitioned the provincial and federal governments not to allow leasing of the area for timber harvesting.

“This is our forest. We hunt here, fish here, gather medicinal plants here, harvest wood here for our personal needs,” said Igor Kukchenko, Vice President of the Association of Indigenous Peoples of Primorsky Province. “The inhabitants of our village Krasniy Yar have spoken out against the leasing of this forest tract by JSC Les Export and any other industrial logging in the Bikin.”