Tag Archives: russia

World’s Most Endangered Big Cat May Be Coming Back From the Brink of Extinction

In 2007, the Amur leopard population dropped to just 40 adults – a dangerously low number that indicated they were on the edge of extinction.

But according to a 2014 census, the population appears to have doubled as 80 or more leopards were counted, with some even repopulating part of its historic range in China. The census was conducted over two years by federal nature reserve Land of the Leopard National Park, located on Russia’s far southeastern border shared with China. Using cameras, researchers were able to analyze and identify individual leopards.

Photo by flickrfavorites / CC BY 2.0
Photo by flickrfavorites / CC BY 2.0

The Amur leopard is a subspecies of the well-known leopard of the African savannas, who is adapted to a cold and snowy climate. It was once native to a wide range of eastern China, eastern Russia and the Korean Peninsula.

But poaching and habitat loss have drastically decreased the species’ numbers in the 20th century. By 1996, the IUCN Red List declared the Amur leopard critically endangered, as they were extinct from the Koreas, functionally extinct in China and existed in only small numbers Russia.

But this recent rise in the leopard’s numbers is a testament to Russia’s commitment over the last few years to saving the animal from extinction. In 2012, the Russian government created the Land of the Leopard National Park by combining three other smaller protected areas with a nearby unprotected land. It’s 1,011 square miles of forest habitat for Amur leopards and Siberian tigers, along with the deer and boar they prey on. Russia has also strengthened penalties for poaching.

Wildlife biologist collaborating with Russian scientists and conservationists in the region Jonathan Slaght says:

“There could in fact be 80, but more likely the number is a little bit less,” he said, because some leopards are likely to be moving between Russia and China and encountering the networks of camera traps on both sides of the border. What needs to happen, to evaluate that number of 80, is to join the Chinese data to the Russian data. It’s looking like both sides are willing to do one of these unified database analyses.”

Featured image by Tim Strater / CC BY-SA 2.0

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U.S. and Russia Have Joined Forces to Save the Polar Bear

The U.S., Russia, Canada, Denmark and Norway have teamed up to save the polar bear. The five countries – each with territory above the Arctic Circle and all signatories to a 1973 treaty to preserve the species – signed a new agreement to protect the bears as climate change melts its home.

The agreement involves a new 10-year plan that brings the countries together in a pan-Arctic approach. Scientists will work together to collect better estimates of current polar bear populations and evaluate the effects of climate change, pollution and disease. They will meet every two years to report on the progress and collaborate further.

Director of the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Arctic Program Alexander Shestakov says:

“After 40 years of cooperation, this is the first time when parties came together to agree on one circumpolar action plan for polar bears. It doesn’t mean for 40 years they weren’t doing anything. But there was a real need for a pan-Arctic approach.”

Photo by Christopher Michel / CC BY 2.0
Photo by Christopher Michel / CC BY 2.0

When the countries first signed the 1973 treaty to protect polar bears, the major threat was uncontrolled hunting. Now, the biggest threat is climate change and warming temperatures in the Arctic, as polar bears overall lack the ability to survive in warmer temperatures

Specifically, higher temperatures result in melting sea ice, which takes away the polar bears only habitat and the habitat of its prey. Melting ice has also stranded polar bears on land for longer periods in the year, leaving them with less access to food and more risk from people.

This summer proved to be another near record melting of sea ice. An image of an emaciated polar bear in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago by German photographer Kerstin Langenberger shows just how terrible this issue has become. She posted the image to Facebook on August 20 and it quickly went viral, becoming the latest symbol of climate change. Sadly, Langenberger says it was not an unusual sight:

Photo by Kerstin Langenberger
Photo by Kerstin Langenberger

Polar bears cannot survive in the wild unless the Arctic remains cold enough and covered by a good deal of ice year-round. But temperatures will continue to rise and ice will continue to melt if we don’t take action. Over the next few decades, countries around the world must cut burning coal and oil. If not, scientists believe the Arctic summer sea ice will disappear by the middle of the century and with it, the polar bears will likely disappear too.

 
 
Featured image by Kerstin Langenberger

Amur Tiger Population in Russia Rises Since 2010

Over the last decade, the Amur tiger population in Russia has increased to as many as 540. According to an interim census by the Russian government, there are between 480 and 540 tigers, including 100 cubs, over 58,000 square miles of habitat.

Around 2,000 specialists were involved in the field research using technologies like GPS tracking, satellite navigators and camera traps. These numbers represent an increase from the last census in 2005, which showed between 423 to 502 tigers.

Amur Tiger2
Image credit: Ronnie Macdonald / CC BY 2.0

Russia’s Far East has 95% of the global population of Amur tigers. Recent anti-poaching efforts in the area have been crucial to increasing numbers, including harsher punishments and newly established criminal charges for illegal hunting, storage and trafficking of the tigers. Head of WWF-Russia Igor Chestin says:

“I am pleased to see that the number of Amur tigers in Russia has increased in all the key areas where WWF has been working for many years. This success is due to the commitment of Russia’s political leadership and the tireless dedication of rangers and conservationists in very difficult conditions.”

Poaching is the principal threat to wild Amur tigers today, with such a high demand of tiger parts throughout Asia still in existence. The number of Amur tigers dropped to just 40 animals in the 1940s, but through conservation efforts, the population has come back from the brink of extinction.

Three Amur Tigers
Image credit: Tambako The Jaguar / CC BY-ND 2.0

As part of an effort to double global tiger numbers by 2022, the World Wildlife Fund is urging every country with Amur tigers to conduct a census. The goal, known as Tx2, requests urgent and comprehensive censuses across South East Asian countries with tigers. Leader of the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative Mike Baltzer states:

“The key is strong political support. Where we have it, in countries like Russia and India, we are seeing tremendous results. However, in South East Asia, where political support is weaker, we are facing a crisis. These countries stand to lose their tigers if urgent action isn’t taken immediately.”

Specialists in Malaysia have suggested that the country’s tiger population may have dropped to 250-340 from approximately 500, making it critical to perform a census there. Other countries in dire need of counting tigers include Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar.

Other countries, however, have been tracking their Amur tiger populations. In January, India released its latest census showing an increase in tiger population to 2,226 , up from 1,706 in 2010. Nepal, which has zero-tolerance for poaching, carried out a census in 2013.

Additionally, China is planning to count tigers this summer, Bangladesh and Bhutan are expected to release their official consensus later in the year and Russia will release its final results in October 2015.
 
 
Featured Image: Tambako The Jaguar / CC BY-ND 2.0