A meeting devoted to the study of the transboundary movement of rare cats using photo-traps and molecular genetic analysis took place this week in Harbin. The Russian side at the event was presented by the experts of the Land of the Leopard National Park, the Amur Tiger Center and the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Molecular genetic monitoring of the Amur leopard and Amur tiger was first launched in the Land of the Leopard National Park and in the north of China in early 2015 with the support of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation. At the first stage, the experts collected the wool and animal excreta, from which, in the second step, DNA samples were isolated from the laboratories of the Biology and Soil Institute of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
As part of the third, final stage of the Northeast Asia Environmental Cooperation Cooperation Project on genetic monitoring, DNA samples should be tested using special equipment in Harbin. At the last meeting, Russian, Chinese and South Korean experts discussed the scope and timing of these studies.
According to approximate calculations, about 250 DNA samples of rare cats from two countries will be sent to the laboratory. At present, the specialists of the Institute of Biology and Industry of the Far Eastern Branch of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences are preparing documents for sending 170 samples obtained in Russia. It is expected that genetic research will take several months, after which the samples will be re-studied at Seoul National University.
“Despite the widespread use of genetic techniques in the modern world, genetic methods for monitoring wild animals is not entirely successful,”- says Elena Salmanova, Deputy Director for science, Land of leopard- “Thanks to this project, the method was improved based on the data collected in Russia and China. It is also important that all samples are processed in one place and one way. In addition, due to the additional research samples in South Korea may be created by a more accurate method of genetic analysis.”
Also during the meeting in Harbin, the parties discussed the terms of writing the final report on the work done. All participants unanimously noted that, despite the project’s short duration and the lack of large-scale results, joint research was an important step in the development of cooperation between Russia and the China in the framework of the conservation of rare cats. At the same time, it is important that the intermediate results of counting the numbers of tigers and leopards in two countries showed an increase in populations of two predators.
According to Sergey Aramilyov, Director of the Primorsky Branch of the Amur Tiger Center, in recent years, including thanks to this project, the degree of study by the Amur tiger and Amur leopard population in China has increased significantly, especially in understanding the distribution and numbers.
“The current trend towards an increase in the number of two rare cats in China, including the merit of state and public organizations in Russia, since at the moment it is the trag-border individuals that inhabit China from Russia that are the basis of the leopard and tiger groups in their territory. Meanwhile, the efforts of colleagues from China are also noticeable, as tigers and leopards began to meet far from the border and females with kittens began to be marked,” - says Sergey Aramilev.
Russia has been participating in the North-East Asian subregional programme of environmental cooperation (NEASPEC) program since its inception in 1993. The coordinator of Russia's participation in the program is the Ministry of Natural Resources. The coordinator of the NEASPEC project “Study of the transboundary movement of Amur tigers and Far Eastern leopards using photo traps and molecular genetic analysis” in Russia is the Amur branch.