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.

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