Resolution of international conference “amur tiger in northeast asia: planning for the 21century

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March 15-18, 2010 Vladivostok, Russia

The international conference “Amur tiger in Northeast Asia: Planning for the 21 Century” was organized by the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science (Institute of Biology and Soils and Pacific Institute of Geography), WWF and WCS.A total of 109 representatives of governmental and scientific bodies, non-governmental organizations and independent researchers from 13 countries participated in the Conference. The conference focused on the current status of Amur tiger population, its prey base and habitat, the conservation measures taken to date, and changes which occurred during the last 12 years of monitoring. Implementation of the “Strategy for Conservation of Amur Tiger in Russia,” approved in 1996, was discussed as well. Recommendations for the new national Amur Tiger Conservation Strategy in Russia and for an Action Plan were developed.

The wild population of tigers, estimated at 100,000 tigers around 1900, has declined to approximately 3,000 individuals today, with four of the eight originally designated tiger subspecies having become extinct in the wild. The Amur tiger sub-species is functionally extinct in the Korean peninsula, and only about 20 tigers inhabit North-East China. Numbers of Amur tigers in Russia declined to a minimum of 30-40 animals at the start of the 1940’s, but due to conservation measures the population recovered by the mid-1980’s and then stabilized. A full range survey in 1996 estimated 415 to 476 individuals, and in 2005 a second survey estimated 428 to 502 individuals. Moreover, approximately 95% of all Amur tigers in the wild are part of one contiguous population, probably the largest in the world. The participants of the conference recognize the successes in conservation of the Amur tiger in Russia: tiger population is stable, local communities on the whole support actions aimed at conservation of this predator, and conflicts between humans and tigers are operatively resolved. Nevertheless, the results of the annual monitoring program show alarming downward trends for both tigers and prey during the last 4 years. It appears that poaching levels have now reached a point where tiger reproduction is no longer able to compensate for the losses. Another threat to the stability of the population is the reduction in size and quality of habitat for tigers and their prey. This is largely due to logging in forests with high conservation value, and to fires and development projects, such as the construction of oil and gas pipelines.

The Amur tiger population reached its peak in the mid-1980s when all suitable habitat was occupied. A die-off of wild boar due to disease in 1983 and a fall in red deer and roe deer numbers due to exceptional snowfalls in 1985-1987 led to food shortages for tigers, forcing them into settlements in search of food, and, of course, also into confrontation with humans (according to official data alone 48 conflict tigers were shot during this period). The opening of the border with China (1989-1991) led to intensive poaching to satisfy the demand for tiger parts in traditional Asian medicine (approximately 60 tiger skins and skeletons were confiscated during this period). Establishment of the anti-poaching brigade “Inspection Tiger” and ranger brigades of the Wildlife Management Department, together with the provision of massive funding by conservation NGOs resulted in a stabilization of the population and brought the situation under control. During this time law enforcement agencies received a share of the fines and damage payments that resulted from their work from the State Ecology Funds, thus providing an effective incentive for good performance.

Unfortunately, these State Ecology Funds were abolished in 2002. Inspection Tiger lost its enforcement function in 2003. In 2005 the Wildlife Management Department was reformed, which resulted again in epidemic poaching in the forests. Harsh winters with deep snow led to high ungulate mortality in south Khabarovsky province in 2006 and in northeast Primorye in 2009, resulting in increased human-tiger conflicts, more frequent poaching of tigers (annually up to 10 cases of human-caused tiger deaths or orphaned tiger cubs are being recorded). Compared to 2002 when more than 1400 people were directly or indirectly involved in the protection of Amur tigers, their habitat and prey base; in 2009 the number of inspectors was reduced by almost half – to 760 inspectors, as well as funding. In the Wildlife Management Agency 140 inspectors remained, including enforcement staff of provincial wildlife refuges. Game wardens of privatized hunting leases lost their enforcements rights, including the right to write up citations. Government wildlife management agencies suffered from three reforms with a peak in 2007-2008 when no more than 10-15 inspectors remained for the protection of wildlife in the Amur tiger range, an area of 20 million ha. In 2009 the situation started to improve, but a new Hunting Law which is about to come into effect will lead to a prolonged period of reorganization of wildlife management.

Logging rates in Amur tiger range have increased from 3 to 7 million cubic meters between 2000 and 2008. Control of logging operations by government agents is almost completely absent after 7 years of continuous forestry reforms, resulting in an increase of illegal logging of 50%- 60% above legal levels. “Improvement felling” has been turned into massive commercial logging that destroys some of the forests most valuable in terms of biodiversity and watershed protection. New demands have resulted in intensive logging of oak trees, depriving wild boar and sika deer of their staple food - acorns. The past 5 years have also shown an increase in logging of Korean pine (with official exports growing from 130,000 to 186,000 cubic meters), because logging of these species is not prohibited and the limitations that were imposed in 1989 have been reversed by new forest management guidelines. Moreover, it is estimated that in reality more than 500,000 cubic meters of Korean pine is being logged annually, resulting in a decrease of the remaining volume by 27%.

The participants of the Conference noted the following: long term prospective projects on Amur tiger conservation are not integrated into the territorial development programs; necessary conservation efforts are not supported by any legislative base, especially in relationship to hunting and forest management bodies; the establishinga protected areas network is not finished; the tiger’s interests are not considered by the commercial enterprises which impact the environment and the financial mechanism for mitigation of their impacts are not institutionalized. Forest and wildlife rangers do not have sufficient rights to protect resources and are inadequately compensated for their dangerous work.

After an exchange of information on the current status and threats to the Amur tiger, Conference participants recognized that without implementation of a comprehensive set of conservation actions, a sharp decline in Amur tiger numbers is likely. Participants of the Conference request to the Government of Russian Federation and local authorities the following recommendations to reverse these negative trends:

  1. Resolve organizational and funding issues related to Amur tiger conservation:

  • Speed-up the revision of the federal Amur Tiger Conservation Strategy and develop a federal Action plan for its implementation, including Action plans for Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces.

  • Initiate talks for the development of a Sino-Russian Amur tiger conservation program for restoration of the Changbaishan tiger population in China.

  • Solve organizational and financial issues to ensure adequate functioning of Inspection Tiger, including construction of a Tiger Rehabilitation Center and establishment of a governmental Amur tiger monitoring center with government funding for annual surveys.

  • Develop a mechanism to allocate funds gained from mitigation payments for habitat loss/degradation to conservation actions for the tiger.

  • Federal funding for Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces for the conservation of Red Data Book species should be increased from the present hundred thousand rubles to an adequate level required (millions of rubles).

  • Make amendments in new the Hunting Law with articles which consider the interests of tigers and leopards.

  • Develop a strategy and action plan for development of hunting leases in Primorsky and Khabarovsky provinces that will ensure an increase in ungulate numbers within tiger habitat, using experiences derived from successful model hunting leases.

  • Provide conditions to stimulate economic development of hunting leases within tiger range, including development of financial support system through usage of mitigation compensation payments paid by construction and development projects.

  • Recommend to the Ministry of Education and Science to include Amur tiger conservation issues into programs of all educational institutions of Primorsky, Khabarovsky, Amurskaya and Evreiskaya provinces as a regional component.

  1. Ensure the protection of Amur tiger habitat:

    • Immediately introduce a ban on commercial logging of Korean pine and unregulated collection of Korean pine nuts, support the initiative to include Korean pine into Red Data Book of Primorsky Province, and request the Russian Government to return Korean pine to the list of tree species for which logging is prohibited and include it in CITES.

    • Federal agencies should: strictly supervise planning and implementation of improvement felling in Amur tiger habitat, with a full logging ban in protected forests; limit logging of mature oak stands; secure all Korean pine nut production zones for collection of non timber forest products only.

    • Implement Recommendations on regulations of forest management in tiger habitat, developed by the Far Eastern Forestry Institute.

    • Forest Management Plans should include measures on road management. After logging operations have been discontinued logging companies should be obliged to close and recultivate logging roads.

    • Establish a full logging ban, except for sanitary, in wildlife refuges (zakazniks) in Amur tiger range (namely the Birsky, Mataisky, Taezjniy, Verkhne-Bikinsky and Leopardovyi).

  2. Complete the development of a network of protected areas in Amur tiger range:

    • Establish a federal Territory for traditional nature resource use in the Bikin river watershed and provide UNESCO World Heritage status to the system of protected areas on the Bikin, Ussurka and Khor rivers in the Primorsky and Khabarovsky Provinces.

    • Obtain UNESCO Biosphere status for Ussuriisky Nature Reserve (zapovednik) creating around it conservation and buffer zones, including the adjacent Scientific-Experimental Forestry and State Experimental Hunting Estate "Orlinoye" of the Russian Ministry of Agriculture.

    • Establish an ecological corridor (wildlife refuge) in the Strelnikov Mountain Range in Primorsky province as compensation for construction of the East-Siberian-Pacific pipeline and the Khabarovsk-Vladivostok gas pipeline, and use the refuge as a starting point for an agreement with China on the establishment of a transboundary protected area.

    • Urgently facilitate full scale functioning of the united protected area that consists of Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and the Leopardovyi Federal Wildlife Refuge, and subsequently use it as a basis for development of a Sino-Russian transboundary protected area.

    • Institute a buffer zone of no less than 1 km. around all nature reserves (zapovedniks) and national parks within the range of Amur tiger and restrict natural resource use in this zone.

  3. Make the following modifications to Russian federal legislation in order to strengthen the fight against poaching:

    • Make possession and transport of tiger derivatives illegal and punishable (i.e. add to article 8.35 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation “Destruction of rare and endangered fauna and flora” after “or capturing, collecting, keeping, obtaining” the words “possession and transport”).

    • Develop and approve Regulations that stipulate that illegal storage and transport of skins and other parts of tigers in the territory of Russia will be treated the same as illegal hunting of species in the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation;

    • Make the illegal export of wildlife derivatives a criminal offense (Expand paragraph 2 of article 188 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on Contraband and include derivatives of Red Data Book species in the contraband list presently consisting of weapons, narcotics, goods of strategic importance and cultural value).

    • Make illegal hunting of rare and endangered species a criminal offense. Include this change and add to article 258 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Illegal hunting” as a separate adequate cause for increasing fines for birds and animals illegally hunted, including illegal hunting on protected territories, and during periods of ecological catastrophes.

    • Increase the administrative punishments for poaching of Red Data Book species. (Make amendments in article 8.35 of Administrative Code of the Russian Federation “Destruction of rare and endangered fauna and flora”, to increase the maximum fine for private citizens from 2,000 to 5,000 rubles and also add a provision for the confiscation of transport means (vehicles) used for transport of illegal goods);

    • In order to ensure the protective regime of provincial protected areas, it is necessary to make changes in paragraph 1 of article 23.26 of Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, # 195-Federal Law of 30.12.2001 (Authorized government enforcement agencies on use, regulation and control of wildlife and habitat) after the phrase “paragraph 3 of the article 8.37 (about violations of regulations of wildlife objects use)” add words “of article 8.39 (on violations of regulations of protection and use of natural resources within nature protected areas)”.

    • Firearms (including registered ones) that are used for poaching ungulates, rare and endangered species, as well as firearms that are illegally carried into protected areas, should be confiscated permanently. Firearms should be confiscated from poachers with multiple violations as well.

The Conference considered the prepared documents and stated:

1. Accept the draft of the Strategy for Amur Tiger Conservation in Russia and the National Action Plan as the basis and recommend to the Russian national Working Group to incorporate proposals elaborated by Conference and submit it for consideration to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology for the approval.

2. Welcome the approval by Government of Khabarovsky Province of “Action Plan for Amur tiger conservation in 2010-2015 and till 2020” and recommend the elaboration of relevant Action Plans by Administrations of Primorsky Province, Evreiskaya Autonomous Province and Amurskaya Province.

3. Recommend the Scheme of landscape planning based on estimates of suitable tiger habitat in East-Manchurian Mountains, developed by the expert group (China Northeast Normal University, WCS, WWF, KORA), as a background for a Program for Recovery of Amur tigers in the Changbaishan Mountains.

4. Acknowledge and welcome the offer of the Global Tiger Initiative partners to assist the National Working Group in the preparation of Russian inputs into the Global Tiger Stabilization and Recovery Program.

5. Create editorial board out of the members of organizational committee and coordinators of working groups and make the board in charge of the preparation and publication of the materials of the conference (by September 2010).

In front of World Tiger Summit to be held on Vladivostok at September 2010, the Participants of the Conference acknowledge the elaboration of Global Tiger Stabilization and Recovery Program and request to the Government of Russian Federation and local authorities to undertake urgent measures to create sustainable nature use system for long term conservation of Amur tiger and its habitats.

Adopted unanimously on March 18, 2010 in Vladivostok.

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