er 100 Russian and international biologists and conservationists gathered for an international conference co-hosted by WCS, “The Amur Tiger in Northeast Asia: Planning for the 21st
Century”, held in Vladivostok from March 16-18. The goals of the conference were two-fold: to report the most recent scientific information on Amur tiger ecology, and to discuss key conservation challenges and solutions for the coming century. Most importantly, the meeting provided an opportunity to review and critique the newly drafted revision of the Russian Federal Tiger Conservation Strategy, which must be ready for implementation prior to the International Tiger Summit to be held in Vladivostok in September 2010.
Scientists, tiger specialists and NGO representatives from China, Korea, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, US, Japan, India, Malaysia and Russia came together to discuss the current status of the Amur tiger population, the principles behind tiger conservation, and concrete conservation measures to ensure a future for tigers in Russia.
At the meeting’s plenary sessions, specialists discussed Russia’s role in implementing the Global Tiger Initiative, an international effort spearheaded by the World Bank aimed at stabilizing and restoring tiger numbers. This initiative, which binds all countries with secure tiger populations, represents a significant challenge, as it requires not just stabilization, but a doubling in tiger numbers over the next 12 years. To achieve such an ambitious goal questions revolving around habitat degradation, poaching and prey depletion must be resolved in Russia, as well as the rest of Asia.
The conference also hosted a separate symposium dedicated to Far Eastern leopard conservation, which focused on the draft Reintroduction Program for establishing a second leopard population in the southern part of the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, part of the Far Eastern leopard’s former range.
The conference was organized by the Institute of Biology and Soils (Russian Academy of Sciences Far Eastern Branch), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
“This is a critical meeting, which will define the fate of the tiger in Russia,” remarked Dale Miquelle, director of the WCS Russia Program. “The decisions that are made here will determine whether Amur tiger numbers will continue to decline, or whether the population will begin to recover.”
Conference participants noted their concern over a series of key issues, including: 1) that long-term tiger conservation plans in Russia are not integrated into regional-level development planning; 2) that legal mechanisms for tiger conservation are inadequate, and that there are critical inadequacies in wildlife management, law enforcement, and forestry legislation; 3) that the protected areas system is incomplete; 4) that tiger conservation is not considered by commercial interests that impact tiger habitat, and that there are no financial and legal mechanisms regulating the activities of companies operating in Amur tiger habitat. A critical problem is that wildlife and forestry inspectors lack sufficient authority and financing to stop poachers and other violators.
WCS Russia staff, affiliated scientists, and students gave a total of 14 presentations at the conference, including:
· Ivan Seryodkin – Resolving conflict situations between tigers and people in the Russian Far East;
· Meghan Riley – Comparison of survey methods for estimating Amur tiger abundance;
· Svetlana Soutyrina – Results of a camera-trap survey in Sikhote-Alin Zapovednik;
· Dina Matyukhina – Evaluating abundance and status of Amur tigers in Primorsky Krai: Protected areas versus adjacent areas using data from the Amur tiger monitoring program, 1998-2009;
· Lizza Protas – Scent-marking behavior of Amur tigers;
· Alexey Kostyria – Camera-trap survey to estimate tiger numbers in Ussuriisky Reserve; Field research and medical evaluation of Far Eastern leopards;
· Jirong Tang and Michiel Hotte – Monitoring the effectiveness of anti-poaching patrols in Hunchun Reserve and adjacent Southwest Primorye;
· Dale Miquelle – The Siberian Tiger Project: science-based conservation of the Amur tiger; A Plan for reintroduction of the Far Eastern leopard into Southern Sikhote-Alin; Analysis of costs to prevent tigers from becoming extinct in the wild and Predicting Amur tiger habitat with a resource selection function;
· Clay Miller – Estimating kill rates using GPS Collars;
· John Goodrich – Home range size, spacing characteristics and density of Amur tigers.
Meeting participants reviewed drafts of the new Russian federal Amur Tiger Conservation Strategy and corresponding regional- and federal-level action plans. These documents will now be revised and sent to the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, as Russia intends to have a complete set of documents, supported by legal mechanisms and financial allocations, by the time of the Global Tiger Summit convenes in Vladivostok in September 2010.