China's National Park of Tiger and Leopard (NPTL) will comprise the nature reserves of Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces with a total area of 1.5 million hectares. President Xi Jinping approved the programme to create the national park at a meeting of the Central Leading Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reforms in early December. The eastern part of the new park will border Russia's Land of the Leopard National Park.
"The landmark decision to create a new national park means that the world's rarest cats will be able to live safely in an area of some 18,000 square kilometres on both sides of the border," said Tatyana Baranovskaya, director of Land of the Leopard National Park.
In March 2017, officials from the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection, the State Forestry Administration and the governments of Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces will meet in Beijing to discuss the basic issues of the new national park's operation. The meeting will be attended by delegates from Land of the Leopard National Park.
Professor Ge Jianping from Beijing Normal University said the first allocations had been transferred and would be used primarily to strengthen the fight against poachers and remove poacher's traps from the protected area. The next task is to move local farms out of the area and to resettle local residents in comparable housing in other parts of China.
According to the recent cat population count, there are about 80 Far Eastern leopards and 540 Amur tigers in the world, most of them in Russia. Over the past few years, the Chinese authorities have taken measures to protect the rare cats, including a ban on commercial forest harvesting in northeast China and tougher measures against poachers. This has had a positive effect on the local ecosystem and has created conditions for expanding the habitat of Far Eastern leopards and Amur tigers outside Russia.
In 2017, Russian and Chinese researchers plan to update the joint database of the Far Eastern leopards and Amur tigers that have been photographed by camera traps in the two countries.