Sunday, December 25, 2011

Russia's Siberian tigers 'face extinction'

A sub-species of tiger faces extinction by 2022 unless decisive action is taken, environmental group WWF warns.

Worldwide tiger populations have plummeted from 100,000 a century ago to less than 7,000 today.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, tigers could be extinct in the wild within a decade.
The Siberian or Amur Tiger is one of the rarest in the world, with only around 500 left in the wild in Russia. But poaching, disease, and habitat loss from intensive logging and development continues to threaten populations.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Artificial snow keeps tigers comfortable in NE China

A Siberian tiger breeding center in northeast China is using artificial snow to comfort its tigers after receiving inadequate amounts of natural snow, the center's chief engineer said.

The center's 1,000-plus tigers need snow to quench their thirst and wash themselves, but this year's snowfall has been too little to meet their requirements, said Liu Dan, chief engineer of the Siberian Tiger Park in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province.

The Sun Island Snow Expo Park located next to the breeding center has provided about 90 cubic meters of artificial snow for free to help the tigers deal with the mild winter, Liu said.

The artificial snow has also provided visiting tourists with entertainment, as they enjoy watching the tigers play in the snow, Liu added.

Siberian tigers are among the world's rarest species. The population of wild Siberian tigers is estimated to be around 500, most of which live in east Russia and northeast China.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Siberian tigers may disappear in 20 years

The last remaining Siberian tigers living wild in Northeast China could disappear within decades, as poaching and illegal logging continue to take their toll, experts have warned.

Research by Chinese authorities and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has discovered that the animal is already one of the planet’s most endangered species.

In just the last 70 years, the estimated population of Siberian tigers, or Amur tigers, has plummeted from as many as 300 to just 18 to 22.

“If the government fails to take effective measures, it’s foreseeable that these creatures could disappear from China within 10 to 20 years,” said Zhu Chunquan, conservation director of biodiversity and operations at the WWF’s Beijing office.

“The poaching of wild animals, which is the tigers’ main food source, is the greatest threat to their survival,” he said, adding that extensive logging in the mountainous provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin has also massively reduced their natural habitats.

Since 1996, when hunting for wildlife was banned in both provinces, authorities have noted a sharp rise in poaching with iron-wire snares.

Zhu said traps can be easily bought in small shops close to forest areas, with most used to catch red deer, sika deer, wild boars and roe deer, which Amur tigers hunt for food.

“A decade ago, we’d see roe deer while driving by (the forests),” said Cao Zhiquan, director of Qiyuan Forest Farm in Dongfanghong township, Heilongjiang. “Now it’s even rare to see a squirrel.”

Traps also pose a huge risk to the tigers, too. In October, a dead Siberian tiger was found with a wire snare around its neck near a reservoir in Mishan, Heilongjiang. Wildlife experts said the animal did not choke to death straight away, but instead died several days later from starvation.

A WWF survey of the wild tigers’ habitats in Heilongjiang and Jilin found an average of 1.6 traps for every 10 kilometers.

“Volunteers from the WWF hold campaigns to remove traps every year, but we’ve gradually accepted the fact that we cannot clear all the traps ourselves,” Zhu said. “To effectively protect the tigers, we need to call on more people to stop eating wild animals. This isn’t something that can be done over a short time, though.”

As with poaching, illegal logging became prevalent after the government introduced restrictions, with a total ban placed on the felling of natural forest in 2000.

China’s State Forestry Administration said that due to technical constraints and poor management, most wild Siberian tiger reserves, such as the one in Wanda Mountain in Heilongjiang, still lack effective monitoring systems.

In addition, these reserves are often short of workers and do not have enough people with sufficient knowledge about tiger protection.

To preserve the precious tiger species, experts are calling for more international cooperation, especially between China and Russia.

An estimated total of 500 wild Siberian tigers live in Russia’s Far East and Northeast China, yet infrastructure construction has fragmented the populations.

“Border fences as high as 2 meters are a big obstacle for the tigers to get past,” Zhu said, adding that the WWF is looking to help China and Russia protect and restore links between the tigers’ habitats. “By doing so, hundreds of wild Siberian tigers in Russia will be able to travel to China, which will result in more cubs being born.”

The conservationist said both countries should try to make agreements to use recording devices along the border, instead of fences.

“We are striving to double the population of wild Siberian tigers in China by 2022, but more international cooperation is needed,” Zhu said.

The State Forestry Administration said China has paid great attention to international cooperation on tiger conservation and has promised more joint projects.

The country has already reached agreements with India and Russia on tiger protection, while a series of measures, such as habitat surveys and information exchanges, have been carried out with other countries and international organizations.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Volunteers to clear traps for Siberian tigers

Ninety Chinese volunteers from across the country will be chosen to clear traps set for endangered wild Siberian tigers in northeast China again this winter.

The trap-clearing campaign will be jointly sponsored by the New York-based non-profit organization Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Heilongjiang Provincial Department of Forestry, the Heilongjiang Provincial Administration of Forest Industry, and the Harbin Daily Newspaper Group, said Wang Lin, head of the trap-clearing team.

From Jan. 7 to 14, 90 volunteers will clear iron wire ring traps -- set by poachers to catch wild Siberian tigers during the winter -- from six areas where the tigers roam in Heilongjiang, Wang said.

The volunteers, both old and young, will be selected among hundreds of applicants across China, and will include public servants, university students, teachers, journalists, doctors and company bosses, Wang said.

"We must let more and more people, especially local hunters, know the harm of setting traps for tigers," said volunteer Shi Dalei, a senior at the Heilongjiang Institute of Technology.

The Siberian tiger, an endangered species, is a subspecies of tiger that once roamed western and central Asia and eastern Russia.

China has only about 20 wild Siberian tigers left, among which eight to 10 are in Jilin province and 10 to 14 are in Heilongjiang.

A wild Siberian tiger was found dead with a trap around its neck in the city of Mishan in Heilongjiang in late October, prompting environmentalists to call for enhanced wildlife protection.

"It is an urgent task for us to protect wild Siberian tigers. I hope more and more people join us to contribute to wildlife protection," Wang said.

During the previous trap-clearing campaign launched in January this year in Heilongjiang, about 100 volunteers braved the frigid weather with temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius to clear a total of 304 traps within a week.

Compared with a decade ago, China has made a lot of improvements in the protection of wild Siberian tigers, but problems still exist, said Xie Yan, director of the WCS China Program.

"We have found that the density of hoofed animals has been decreasing over recent years, and wild Siberian tigers are threatened with extinction," Xie said.

"The problem of animal traps is a priority for us. We should actively participate in the trap-clearing campaign," she added.