Countering Poaching of Amur Tigers


Patrol teams operating in protected areas use various transport means, including all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, four-wheel drive vehicles, boats and motorbikes. Analysis of patrol monitoring data show that foot patrols are most effective in detecting and apprehending poachers, but trespassing tourists are most often found during vehicle patrols. 

A "SMART Approach” for improving protection of Amur tigers and leopards in protected areas in Russia 

The most immediate threats to tigers and leopards in Russia, as elsewhere in Asia, are direct poaching, prey depletion (another form of poaching), or a combination of the two. Consequently, eliminating or reducing poaching pressure has become a top priority for securing a future for tigers and leopards in the wild.

One method to aid anti-poaching efforts, known as the "SMART Approach," combines monitoring activities of inspectors and a adaptive management cycle to improve efforts and results of law enforcement patrolling. This approach has already been applied at more than 130 conservation sites in Africa, Asia, and South America to improve the protection of a variety of species that face extinction due to poaching (e.g., tigers, elephants and rhinos). However, before the start of our program, it had not yet been tried in Russia.

The long-term goal of our SMART-based program (illustrated here) is to increase tiger, leopard, and prey populations in the Russian Far East.  

To meet this goal, since 2010 we have worked with the management of protected areas in the Russian Far East to assess and improve the effort and effectiveness of their anti-poaching patrols. Our focus has specifically been on protected areas as they represent de facto core breeding habitat; safe places where tigers can live and breed, and young can disperse to settle suitable habitat outside of protected areas.

We began rolling out the program in 2010 by focusing initially on two protected areas: Land of the Leopard National Park and Lazovskii Zapovednik. By 2015, given our demonstrated successes and subsequent invitations to new locations, we are now collaborating with seven of the nine federal-level protected areas in Russia that sustain tigers (in addition to the above, Zov Tigra National Park, Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Zapovednik, Ussuriiskii Zapovednik, Bolshekhekhtsirskii Zapovednik, and Annuiiskii National Park). 

What is the "SMART Approach" for improving patrol management?

The "SMART Approach" is based on the use of the law enforcement monitoring data in an adaptive patrol management process that is aimed at continuously improving patrol quality. The Law Enforcement Monitoring (LEM) uses GIS technology (Geographic Information System), which means that all patrol monitoring data are linked spatially and can be shown on maps. LEM makes it possible to assess and compare patrol efforts and results over time and across teams and sites. Anti-poaching teams use GPS (Global Positioning System) units to record their patrol routes and they document poaching and other relevant incidents during patrols on specially designed data forms.

In Russia data on patrol movements, violations, and tigers and leopards are collected by patrol teams and then stored in a computer database using SMART software. By generating regular patrol reports, LEM facilitates evaluation of patrol performance and improved patrol management. Regular meetings between WCS staff, inspectors, and management staff allows assessment of patrol accomplishments and determination of priority areas and targets for future efforts of anti-poaching teams. If applied well, the "SMART Approach" can produce substantial improvements of patrol quality.




In the first full program year, 2011, we saw a marked growth in anti-poaching results at the two sites where we first introduced the "SMART Approach" (in comparison to the three years previous to the start of our program). In both places, the numbers of firearms confiscated more than doubled, the numbers of poachers caught increased by 1.8 to 2.5 times, and the total amount of fines levied increased by 1.3 to 7.2 times.


Since 2011, overall patrol efforts have continued to increase at the first 4 program sites (see figure below). All three indicators of patrol effort showed consistent increases over the four years the “SMART Approach” was used. While we recognize that such consistent improvement will not continue indefinitely, the adaptive management process of monitoring and setting targets for patrol teams (with regular meetings to assess and review) appears to have been successful in  increasing effort of patrol teams. 

Three indicators of success in improving the average law enforcement effort per month of ranger teams in four protected areas between 2011 and 2014: 1) distance traveled on foot patrols; 2) distance traveled on motorized patrols (vehicle, motor bike, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or boat), and 3) total time spent on patrols.

Open a map of the protected areas where the SMART project is implemented.