Southwestern Primorsky Krai (Southwest Primorye) is part of the Changbaishan (or East Manchurian) Mountain Ecosystem. Although this thin sliver of Russia represents only a small portion of the Changbaishan ecosytem, this region is home to 10-14 tigers and the last 30 Far Eastern leopards remaining in the wild. The Russian tiger population in this region is isolated from the main population of Amur tigers living further north in the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, but it represents the “source” for recovery of tigers in Northeast China. Therefore conservation efforts must focus on both sides of the border for success.
In 2006 WCS Russia initiated an intensive research program designed to assess the potential health threats to small populations, such as inbreeding depression, and to better understand the ecology of tigers in SW Primorye. Our work is aimed at defining minimum requirements for survival of this population. Genetic analyses have demonstrated that tigers in SW Primorye are already distinguishable from the main population of Amur tigers, signaling the need for increased efforts to secure an ecological corridor between the Russia-China boundary area and the Sikhote-Alin Ecosystem.
Additionally, WCS is working to improve effectiveness of law enforcement efforts on the Russian side of the border through support of anti-poaching efforts. We are sponsoring implementation of a single monitoring system that will allow information sharing information between various responsible governmental bodies.
Successful recovery of tigers in Northeast China will require long-term commitments to work on both sides of the China-Russia border, and to improve information exchange and coordination between nations. Thus, WCS has already sponsored several joint workshops, and will continue to provide regular exchange opportunities.