Top managers of the Far Eastern Leopards autonomous non-profit organisation and Vorontsov Land of the Leopard were in China on a working visit to Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park. After signing a memorandum of understanding for the conservation of the Amur tiger and the Far Eastern leopard, employees of the park's Suiyang and Hunchun branches gave a presentation to their Russian colleagues.
The Russian delegation visited the cities of Suiyang and Hunchun, where the offices of the Chinese national park's two branches are located. The delegation included Viktor Bardyuk, director of Land of the Leopard; Yelena Gangalo, general director of Far Eastern Leopards; and Merited Ecologist of the Russian Federation Vsevolod Stepanitsky, adviser to the general director of Far Eastern Leopards.
In Suiyang, Heilongjiang Province, the Russian guests visited the Museum of Nature run by the national park's local branch and an exhibition hall, where they took their time examining a 3D map of the national park and the photos on a display stand that were taken by camera traps. They learned, among other things, that the female bear with five cubs which is well known in Land of the Leopard had also been spotted in China.
The visit to Suiyang concluded with talks with the leaders of the national park's Suiyang branch that highlighted their work to preserve wild animals. Like at Land of the Leopard, the main objective of the Chinese conservation workers is to increase the populations of rare big cats. This can be achieved, in addition to improving the quality of protection measures, by developing, among other things, the national park's infrastructure and through consistent efforts to raise environmental awareness in the country.
"Work to protect rare animals began in this area back in 2006," said Zhang Chonglei, director of the Suiyang branch of Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park. "Later this area was made a part of the regional wildlife reserve. In December 2017, a branch of the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park was officially unveiled here. This is a new form of organisation, and we would be very grateful to our Russian colleagues for the opportunity to learn more from their experience, and we appreciate their proposal for cooperation. Hopefully, we will meet regularly."
The Russian specialists said that a detailed plan for cooperation between the two nature conservation institutions would be finalised within a few months. However, an agreement on alerting one another to any incidents of large mammals falling sick in the border area has already been reached during this visit.
Next, the Russian delegation visited the national park's branch located close to the city of Hunchun, Jilin Province. The Russian specialists had a look around the office and visited the Amur Tiger and Far Eastern Leopard Studies and Monitoring Centre. The Russian guests were shown photos of rare animals on display stands and learned about the studies that are chiefly carried out by the centre, like in Russia, using motion-sensor camera traps.
After the tour of the centre, Russian specialists concluded that Russia and China had similar principles underlying their approaches to the conservation of rare animals. This refers to the issues of protecting animals' habitat, as well as scientific studies and population monitoring.
"Although the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park Administration was established quite recently, it has something to show for its efforts," said Viktor Bardyuk, director of Land of the Leopard. "We now know that upon leaving the territory of Russia for China, tigers and leopards will remain protected. At the same time, there is plenty of work for us that includes sorting and analysing photo monitoring data, coordinating protection activities and holding environmental-awareness initiatives. We believe that both parties stand to gain from cooperation like this."
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 the cross-border monitoring and conservation of rare cats and their food supply is of special importance to the national park.