The city of Changchun, China, hosted the first ever and highly important meeting between representatives of Russia's Land of the Leopard, the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation, and China's Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park administration. Land of the Leopard and China's Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park administration signed a memorandum of understanding as part of the efforts to preserve Amur tigers and Far Eastern leopards. The memorandum is the first significant step in cooperation between the two major government organisations that were created to protect rare wild cats. Russian officials in attendance at the meeting included Viktor Bardyuk, director of Vorontsov Land of the Leopard; Yelena Gangalo, general director of the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation; and Merited Ecologist of the Russian Federation Vsevolod Stepanitsky, adviser to the general director of Far Eastern Leopards.
The meeting took place in Changchun, the city where the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park main office is located. Russian officials accepted the invitation of their Chinese colleagues to sign this very important document. The next step will be a meeting in Moscow.
"I am sure that our cooperation will exist not only on paper, but it will be proactive, thanks to which the Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard populations will significantly grow," Yelena Gangalo said. "We see no obstacles that could stand in the way of our efforts to increase the populations of these animals. Hopefully, we will meet again within six months to approve a detailed action plan for our cooperation. An agreement has been reached to hold the meeting in Moscow."
"The signing of the memorandum is an important step towards long-term and extensive cooperation," said Viktor Bardyuk, director of Land of the Leopard. "We plan to cooperate in all areas, including protecting the natural habitats [of Amur tigers and Far Eastern leopards], science, environmental education and tourism. We intend to develop a detailed cooperation plan in the near future, including concrete activities that we will jointly organise over the next few years."
Participants in the meeting said that the above activities would include joint anti-poaching training sessions and wildlife surveys, as well as exchanges for school students and national park volunteers and information sharing related to science and nature protection.
"This meeting has produced very good results, as it has allowed us to discuss in detail the areas of our cooperation," said Zhao Li, director of China's Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park administration. "We fully support the proposals of our Russian colleagues regarding areas in which we should cooperate. We believe the signing of the memorandum is a significant milestone that will provide the basis for implementing our joint action plan."
The Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation believes that the memorandum of understanding will be the first step towards creating a Russian-Chinese cross-border wildlife reserve, Land of Big Cats, which will be part of Land of the Leopard National Park, the Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park.
"The Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation has come up with an initiative that an agreement on the creation of a cross-border wildlife reserve be signed by the governments of Russia and China," Vsevolod Stepanitsky said. "We believe that cooperation in the cross-border area covering the south of the Primorye Territory in Russia and the neighbouring areas in the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in China is of exceptional interest. The unique biodiversity of North Asia is concentrated here, and our objective is to join forces to preserve it."
The Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park administration was established in August 2017. The protected area covers more than 1.46 million hectares.
Land of the Leopard National Park borders China. Since the state border is not an obstacle for wild animals, part of the Amur tiger and Far Eastern leopard populations moves unhindered on the territory of both countries. According to the research conducted by Russian and Chinese scientists under the UN programme NEASPEC (the North-East Asian Subregional Programme for Environmental Cooperation), at least 15 adult leopards are being monitored via camera traps in both countries. That is why cross-border monitoring and conservation of rare cats and their prey is of special importance for the national park.