An organizational meeting dedicated to the Amur tiger census that will be carried out between late 2014 and early 2015 was held in Vladivostok. The meeting was organized by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, Rosprirodnadzor with the participation of the Far Eastern subjects of the federation, representatives of the Amur Tiger Center and other public organizations. At a press conference held after the meeting, this large-scale event officially started.
This winter more than 58 square miles of the Amur tiger’s habitats in the Russian Far East will be covered in the framework of the state's census. About 2000 participants will be involved - employees of federal and regional PAs, hunting authorities, professional biologists, game experts and experienced hunters - to survey this territory and measure tiger pawprints. About 1,500 routes have been laid. Such large-scale census is carried out on the entire territory of the range every 10 years in order to determine current state of the population and measures necessary for more effective conservation of this rare predator.
"We are primarily interested in the state of the population of this rare species. We are concerned not only about the quantity - how many tigers are out there - 500 or 501, but also about the state of the forage base, habitat, whether the historical range has been preserved, how much it has been transformed and changed by people. In any case, this is not easy. The tiger is a symbol, by protecting it we also protect the entire nature reserve. The development of forestry, game reserves and of infrastructure will inevitably change the habitat of the tiger in the future. Our task is to find a place for this species for a long stay in its historical range. Therefore, without the financial support of the state, this work is impossible, " says Amirkhan Amirkhanov, acting head of Rosprirodnadzor, Chairman of the Working Group on the census of the Amur tiger in the winter of 2014-2015.
The census of the Amur tiger and the Far Eastern leopard is organized and conducted by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the reserves and national parks under its jurisdiction, the Primorsky Administration, the government of Khabarovsky Krai, the Amur and Jewish Autonomous Regions with the support of the Amur Tiger Center and the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The Amur Tiger Center has financed the preliminary measures necessary to conduct a large-scale census of predators outside the territory of federal protected areas. Director of the Primorye branch of the Amur Tiger Center Sergei Aramilev noted the importance of involving environmental organizations in such activities:
"The task of public organizations in the Amur tiger census is to carry out a parallel analysis of the received information. This will provide more objective and open data. The new figures will not only help to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the work done over the years, but also to determine the plans for the future".
Traditional and basic method of census is the measurement of the pawprints of the Amur tiger. A census will be also carried out in 4 clusters - in Lazovsky, Sikhote-Alinsky, Ussuriisky reserves and in the South-West of Primorye, where both tiger and leopard live. With the help of photo traps and DNA analysis the data on the number of animals in certain areas will be obtained.
"As before, the main indicator of the census is the measurement of tigers’ pawprints , and it is important that we do this according to an approved methodology. Among innovations are satellite navigators, which allow you to navigate the terrain and accurately determine the location of the track, as well as mandatory photo-fixation of the size of the pawprint, "- said Vladimir Aramilev, scientific director of the census of the Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard, senior researcher at the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Currently data is being collected at 862 sites in Primorsky Krai, in the south of Khabarovsky Krai and in the Jewish Autonomous and Amur Regions. 5 animals were released this year in the area. On February 1-15, a one-time census of the Amur tiger will be carried out on the entire territory of the range.
According to the 2005 census, 10 years ago there were 423-502 tigers in the south of the Far East - accounting for about 95 per cent of the world's population of this subspecies. According to the 2013 data there are about 50 Far Eastern leopards, whose range is bordered by the South-West of Primorsky Krai.
"This work is carried out on a daily basis on the territory of federal PAs. And the monitoring that is currently being carried out - we are talking about photo traps and the work of wardens - gives grounds to believe that the number of individuals in the territory of protected areas is increasing. The census will reveal the situation on other territories, "- says Dmitry Belanovich, Director of the Department of Public Policy and Regulation in the field of environmental protection of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.
Preliminary results of the census will be announced at the end of May 2015; the final report will be released in October 2015. There will also be a unique opportunity to compare the results of the 2013 and 2015 simultaneous censuses of the Far Eastern leopard. All parties are interested in objective data.
"We do not exert pressure on any structures. We believe that state authorities will not directly participate in the examination of materials, analysis of data and results. This will be the job of scientific organizations - the Russian Academy of Sciences and environmental NGOs," - Said Amirkhan Amirkhanov.
Systematic participation of the state, the Russian Academy of Sciences, regional authorities and public environmental organizations has already made it possible to significantly improve the situation with the "flagged" species of rare animals, including the Amur tiger and the Far Eastern leopard. A lot of work has been done by the administrations of Primorsky Krai and Khabarovsky Krai, allocating significant territories for specially protected areas.
"We understand that tigers walk in and out reserves and national parks. Therefore, without tackling problems in unprotected areas and without social support this species can not be preserved. And the most important component link must be a man. If we do not take into account the interests of people living in the taiga, engaged in agriculture and hunting, we will not save the tiger. We must find a mechanism and compensation for losses and resolving conflict situations," said Amirkhanov.