Interview with Yury Dunishenko

  • 13.10.2015
  • News
Interview with Yury Dunishenko

At the end of September 2015, Vladivostok celebrated Tiger Day.  For the second year in a row, people who have made a special contribution to the conservation of the Amur tiger receive their well-deserved awards as part of the festivities organized by the Amur Tiger Center.  Among those awarded with the Certificate of Honor of the President of the Russian Federation this year and Dunishenko Yury Mifodyevich, senior researcher of the Far Eastern Branch of the All-Russian Research Institute of Hunting and Animal Farming named after Professor Zhitkov.  We publish an interview with Yuri Mifodyevich.


The indigenous Far Eastern, since he was born (October 23, 1940) and grew up on a dead gold mine with a beautiful name - Yasny, located in the taiga, 80 km from  city Zeya.  Ibid received a secondary education, and, together with a certificate - a summons to the army, in which, in particular, and spent three years, in fact, "on the front of the Cold War".  The service was intense, but interesting.  Infinite violations of the border by US bombers, reconnaissance aircraft, and others who wanted to receive information about the combat readiness, or simply tickled their nerves, did not allow them to doze.  Therefore, machines with live ammunition at the stations were always at hand.

He received a specialty radio telegraph and direction finder and in the first year complied with the standards of the 1st class.  Spy satellites, arrogant naval patrol aircraft, hammered to the fullest extent by all sorts of means of information transmission, the broadcast, which literally had to “trickle” on shifts “after six to six”.  And in his free time, he got acquainted with the nature of Chukotka, the snow cover in the mountains of which, that the rasp - three pairs of skis was barely enough for a long winter.  White nights, fantastic beauty of the northern lights, arctic foxes and deer, and even a blizzard for a month, at which you can not see the outstretched hand, are remembered now as a distant happy time.

At the end of his service, surprisingly to the commanders, he refused to be sent to the institute for an army specialty and entered the Irkutsk State University on a biological faculty.  And only then I learned that there is such a specialty - game managers, which determined the whole future life.

Since childhood, I felt at home in the taiga. She called, and after finishing the 2nd course  Irkutsk State Agrarian University named after A.A. Ezhevsky transferred to correspondence and left for Khabarovsk Krai.  Got a job at the Lazovsky State Industrial Farm, got a huge plot in the spurs of Sikhote-Alin and worked for a year as a full-time hunter.  And then it happened what I dreamed about - went to work on a hunting expedition that gave unlimited travel opportunities.  In this organization, in the capacity of engineer, head of the party, and head of the architectural supervision group for 14 years, traveled and proceeded to Siberia and the Far East.  And when he had matured to the analysis of the collected information, he moved to the Far East Branch of the Research Institute of Hunting, where he worked for over 30 years.  The area of ​​interest in science is ungulates, and since the tiger feeds on them, it was necessary to devote a lot of time to this predator.  He was "highlighted" as an author and co-author in 21 books, 18 brochures, more than 170 articles of scientific and publicistic "genre".  The tradition, which for half a century has never been broken, is to spend at least a month in the taiga every winter.

Q:When you first saw a tiger in the wild, how did it happen and what emotions did you experience?

 A: For quite a long time, despite the fact that there were many to follow in their wake, there were no visual encounters with predators.  The animals went off the trail, passed, watching from the side, and then continued on their own business.  And the first closer acquaintance happened when a tiger, in my footsteps, approached a hollow stump in which I settled down to observe ungulates. At first I saw him when the beast was crossing the salt mine.  In the light of the moon, the beast was completely white!  Then he went to my shelter, tore off a piece of bark, “snorted” something and began to go around the stump in a circle.  But the idea to grab it through the "loophole" by the tail, for some reason did not arise.  Then the beast lay down about five meters away and lay almost all night. True, out of my line of sight - I only heard him when he shook his head, driving away the midge.  What did I feel?  At first it became stuffy in my shelter.  And then got used to the neighbor.  He left in the morning, and I very quickly reached the winter hut.

All my life in the taiga, all my life I deal with large predators.  And all sorts of meetings was enough.  Fear? No, rather a sense of imminent danger, mobilizing attention and readiness to repel it.

Q: Why do you need to guard the tiger?

 A: There are several reasons.  And the first of them - the tiger - an indicator of the state of nature. When it deteriorates, large predators disappear first.  The tiger is at the top of the pyramid and preserving its population, we also maintain our “habitat” (creation of protected areas, restrictions on economic activities that harm nature).

The second reason is international obligations, the failure of which does not add credibility to the state. The tiger is not only an indicator “ecological”, but also “political”.  It is for such species that the world community judges the attitude to nature conservation in general, the preservation of universal human values.

There are purely economic reasons. Tiger is the most attractive object for ecological types of tourism, followed by the future.  He can earn his own security for himself, with a big plus for people.  Secondly, it is much less evil than wolves, which it destroys, and the fight with which for people costs no less than protecting a tiger.  There is one more reason, let's say, aesthetic - this is the “highlight” of the Ussuri taiga and for us living here.  National pride for the fact that they managed to preserve this miracle of nature.

As part of the 2015 Tiger Day celebration, Yury Dunishenko was awarded the Certificate of Honor of the President of the Russian Federation for his great contribution to the study and preservation of the Amur tiger population.  The diploma was presented by the Presidential Aide - Head of the Presidential Control Department, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Amur Tiger Center Konstantin Anatolyevich Chuichenko.

Q: What do people know about tiger, has it been studied enough?

A: Judging by the answers to all kinds of questionnaires, thanks to a rather large amount of literature, the Internet, the work of local media and public organizations, the curious about the tiger are quite well-informed.  True, the majority still thinks that a tigress drives tigers for three years, that a tiger cannot climb a tree, and it hypnotizes with its eyes.  As for science, it remains questionable to feed a predator in a snowless period, the issues of settling young animals, the relationship between family clans, the size of the death of tigers from males, etc. So we are waiting for drones, thermal imagers, and other technical means for remote monitoring.  In fact, despite the fact that it has been written a lot about this animal, it will take a long time to study it.

Q: Hunter and tiger, is a compromise possible?

A: This compromise is not only possible - it exists exactly as long as tigers and hunters live nearby.  If there had been no compromise, the tiger would have been destroyed long ago, since it is practically defenseless in front of the hunter.  It would be as if environmental organizations didn’t beat themselves in the chest, but it’s still impossible to count the tiger without the participation of hunters.

Another thing is that as the destruction of the habitat increases the tension of these relationships.  Increased stress and destruction of hunting, the replacement of professional hunters and true amateur hunters, people well armed, but do not want to know the laws of the taiga.  However, in my opinion, the situation with this is normalized.

Q: What measures do you think should be taken to improve the situation with the tiger?

A: This question is interrelated with the previous one.  Without preserving key habitats of the tiger, stabilizing and increasing the number of its main potential victims (wild boar, red deer, roe deer, sika deer), the existing tiger population cannot be saved.  And not only the tiger is “interested” in this - here its “interests” coincide with the tasks of the hunting economy, the effectiveness of which completely depends on the abundance of game.  And this abundance can be ensured only in one way - by compensating wild ungulates for the proportion of feed lost by cutting down oak forests, pine forests, hazel trees.  Need feeding fields, mineral feeding, semi-free animal breeding.  With all this, only hunting farms can cope, there are no other interested organizations in the country, and it is not expected. But they can cope only with the help of the state.  And the first thing that needs to be done is to find funds for compensation to hunting farms, in whose territory tigers live, actually spent on reproduction activities and effective protection of funds from the state budget.  This will encourage the conservation of the tiger in its territory, and the implementation of relevant activities. It is clear that the initial costs will be high - the purchase and rental of equipment for biotechnical work is expensive.  But, if at least one billion rubles, withdrawn from all kinds of crooks, to direct to these goals - we could not worry about the fate of the tiger.  By the way, in many countries of Western Europe, game breeding is increasingly included in the priority directions of state policy.  True, there is no tiger there, but the goal is purely pragmatic - getting the maximum of ecologically clean meat products.  And the results are impressive.

Without preserving key habitats of the tiger, stabilizing and increasing the number of its main potential victims (wild boar, red deer, roe deer, sika deer), the existing tiger population cannot be saved.

It is also necessary to immediately ban in the tiger's area the felling of the oak, to harshly suppress cutting of pine forests under far-fetched pretexts, to preserve the arrays of wintering horsetail, to return the environmental impact assessment during the removal of the plots, to calculate the damage that should be paid for compensatory measures.  And you need to create conditions for improving the efficiency of hunting farms, and not spread rot to them, filling up with exorbitant reporting and payments. Where there are tigers, hunting structures should be in a special position.

Q: Your assessment of the conducted tiger records?  Does the figures obtained reflect the real picture?

A: Over the past 30 years, I had to be responsible three times for organizing a general tiger counting in the Khabarovsk Krai, and for 13 years for monitoring its population. Therefore, there is something to compare with.  For the organization, the observance of the methodological foundations, I would rate it as “good.”  Naturally, for the 9 years that have passed since the previous counting, a certain rotation of attracted performers took place, but most of them did not participate in the counts for the first time.  Therefore, an individual error, common when changing performers, is unlikely to exceed the permissible limits.  Yes, it is multidirectional, and is compensated by the electronic processing group using the A. Murzin algorithm.

The only drawback that has complicated the work is the delay in their start, which was later compensated for by prompt resolution of all emerging issues.  The estimation of the number of tigers in the reports of the coordinators was also thorough and critical.  Thus, all traditions are observed, the materials are quite compatible with the previous ones for long-term monitoring.

As for the Khabarovsk Krai, the figure turned out unexpectedly high.  But, alas, such is it in nature - we have thrown out all the “dubious” tigers from calculations during information processing.  In addition, I myself spent the past month in the tiger's habitat, and I recorded the traces of up to 5 different tigers in one hiking route.  The role played by the fact that most females had two or three tiger cubs, tiger paths everywhere.  And due to the massive biotechnology in Anyuisk National Park, the number of predators in the Nanai region has almost doubled.  However, this does not at all make you happy, but it is alarming - as a result of mnogosnezha, the ungulates become much smaller, which can turn into trouble not only for a tiger, but also for people - predators can go to settlements.

I know the situation in Primorye worse, but the doubts in the data on some areas that arose when discussing the results of counting in Vladivostok were dispelled by the coordinators confidently and convincingly.  So where the number has declined - it has declined, and where it has grown - it means it has grown.

In addition, the Khabarovsk part of the predator's range is located at the borders of its natural range, and in such places the changes occurring are more noticeable and almost always reflect what is happening in the population as a whole.  Therefore, one can only be proud of the fact that in spite of everything, the Far Eastern people manage to maintain the stability of the tiger “community”.

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