Nations unite to help tigers

Updated: 2013-07-30 02:14

By Yang Yao in Kunming (China Daily)

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China, Russia and India make efforts to save endangered Siberian cat

China is making a big push to protect tigers and recently finalized two separate agreements with Russia and India to beef up conservation efforts for the big cats and other endangered species.

At an ongoing conference in Kunming, China made good on its call for more cross-border cooperation, announcing a deal with Russia on Sunday to build two ecological corridors on their shared border to save the Siberian tigers'habitat.

The ecological corridors will allow wild Siberian tigers to migrate freely without disturbance from humans.

Nations unite to help tigers

A zookeeper at Weifang Jinbaole Park plays with three baby tigers in Weifang, Shandong province, on Monday. China and other countries have been making a greater effort to protect tigers and other endangered species, including plans to build ecological corridors and combat illegal wildlife trade. [Zhang Chi / for China Daily]

Siberian tigers, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature, were on the edge of extinction in the 1960s, but their numbers have recovered. Of the roughly 450 Siberian tigers today, around 20 live in China along its border with Russia, said Wang Weisheng, division director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Management under the State Forestry Administration.

Wang said authorities are now working out the details of building the corridors, including reforestation of farmland.

Irina Borisovna Fominykh, deputy director of the International Cooperation Department of Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources, said there are around 400 to 450 in Russia.

Russia plans to increase the number to 700 by 2022, she said.

China also reached an agreement with India at the Kunming meeting to work on protecting tiger habitats and combat illegal wildlife trade.

The two nations will cooperate by exchanging their experiences and information about protecting tigers and their habitats.

The Kunming conference was called the International Workshop for Transboundary Conservation of Tigers and Other Endangered Species, and the Strategy for Combating Illegal Trade in Wildlife. It was organized by the State Forestry Administration to observe Global Tiger Day on July 29.

Yin Hong, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration, said on Monday that endangered animals can be saved if nations work together.

"The conservation of tigers and combating illegal trade in wildlife require the concerted effort of all the nations where they live," she said.

There are 13 tiger range countries, and they differ in their abilities in funding, law enforcement, supervision and scientific know-how.

Yin said more help should be made available to countries with weaker financial capabilities, law enforcement and scientific development.

The 13 countries created Global Tiger Day at the Tiger Summit in November 2010 in St Petersburg, Russia. The day is celebrated annually on July 29 to raise awareness of support for the conservation of wild tigers.

There are 3,200 to 3,500 wild tigers in the world, and the 13 nations have agreed to increase their number to 6,000 by 2022.

"We have set an ambitious goal," said Mike Baltzer, head of the WWF Tigers Alive Initiative. "To know global tiger population numbers will be to know where we are and will help understand what else we need to do together to put tigers in a safe place by 2022."

He said that determining the exact number of tigers in the wild is difficult because they are notoriously elusive and inhabit often remote and rugged terrain. Jiang Guangshun, of the China State Forestry Administration's Feline Research Center, said international cooperation is needed to count the tiger population.

For many countries, finding the number of tigers has been prohibitively expensive and time-consuming because many lack the techniques and equipment to survey tigers, particularly cheaper and more durable camera traps.

Jiang said China built a tiger/leopard monitoring platform in 2011 to collect information on the big cats' ranges and DNA as well as footprint images to create a database.