Changchun, China – The discovery of Amur tiger tracks in Changbaishan in north-eastern China has given conservationists hope for a species that is rarely seen in that area.
A walker in the region spotted the tracks and recorded them on his mobile phone. A century ago such a sight would have been fairly common, with hundreds of Amur tigers,on the prowl. It is thought that now only about 20 remain in the area.
"Tiger tracks found in this area show that the tigers are moving deeper into China from the Sino-Russian border," said Fan Zhiyong, director of WWF-China's Species Programme. "Therefore, it is of critical importance that tiger conservation occurs in the whole Changbaishan area."
There are just over 500 Amur tigers in the wild and it is listed as critically endangered on IUCN's red list of endangered species. The main threats to Amur tigers in north-eastern China are habitat degradation, poaching, fragmentation of tiger habitats and a small prey population to feed from.
WWF and its partners have been focusing their efforts to save the Amur tiger on a number of fronts: helping ungulate populations such as wild boar and roe deer – which are the tiger's main prey – to recover by helping communities find alternative livelihood options; stopping poaching by helping local authorities carry out anti-poaching activities; and increasing and connecting protected tiger habitats so tigers can safely move from one area to another.
Thanks to vigorous anti-poaching and other conservation efforts on the Russian side, the tiger population there has become stable over the last decade and is beginning to increase. As such, should the feeding population in Changbaishan be restored and protected in an effectively managed tiger habitat, then those tigers across the border may come to occupy the area.
Conservationists in the Changbaishan area are very eager for this to occur, and the fact that tiger tracks have now been found in the Wangqing Forestry Bureau twice in the last two years is an encouraging sign.
"Although Wangqing Forestry Bureau is a timber management unit, it attaches great importance to wildlife conservation," said Liang Jixiang, head of the Forest Management Department of Wangqing Forestry Bureau. "We are calling for support and help from interested parties and experts at home and abroad to help find ways to make Wangqing a home for tigers."
WWF's Changchun Programme Office has recently developed the Hungchun-Wangqing-Dongning Tiger Conservation Planning tool enable greater coordination of activities across the region and to help maintain these fragile populations of Amur tiger.
"WWF is working with the Chinese government and other partners to achieve the restoration and recovery of tigers to north-east China – the one remaining place in all of China where the recovery of this majestic species is a real possibility," said Dr. Susan Lieberman, director of WWF-International's Species Programme.
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