Nowadays, tigers and leopards are still hunted for their valuable body parts that are used in traditional Chinese medicine and for skins that are in high international demand. Moreover, it is common for hunters to poach tigers to eliminate competition for ungulates and habitat and for locals to kill tigers in retaliation for depredations on domestic animals such as dogs and cows.
Poaching is a serious threat for the survival of these cats. In Russia as well as in many other tiger-range countries strengthening anti-poaching efforts is a key task to achieve a goal set at the International Tiger Forum in St.Petersburg in 2010 – to double wild tigers by 2022.
The main goal of our anti-poaching activities is to reduce poaching of Amur tigers and leopards and their prey within protected areas, hunting leases, and other lands important for these big cats. However, the anti-poaching teams act against all forms of poaching as well as against illegal trade in animal parts and medicinal plants such as ginseng. Hence, our teams help to protect the whole terrestrial ecosystem.
Since its establishment the Phoenix Fund has been providing support for representatives of state environmental law enforcement agencies and volunteers who are fighting with ecological violations in Amur tiger and leopard habitat. Close collaboration with Primorsky Hunting Management Department, Inspection Tiger, Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintroduction of Tigers and Other Wild Animals, Far Eastern Operative Customs, Natural Resource Use Control Agency (Rosprirodnadzor) in Primorsky krai, Protected Areas Department of Primorsky krai Administration and others has guided to a successful and well-coordinated work in nature conservation.
At present, the Phoenix Fund pays much attention to anti-poaching activities in the protected areas – nature reserves, wildlife refuges and national parks. It is known that regional- and federal-level protected areas in Russia with different protection regimes protect up to 25% of tiger habitat. As the protected areas represent the key undisturbed tiger habitat and provide necessary protection, and given that economic and business development as well as other adverse environmental effect are strictly prohibited there, it is necessary to improve measures to conserve these rare wild cats there. To achieve this objective, in 2010-2011 the Phoenix Fund in cooperation with Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) launched Management Information System (MIST), that was later replaced by its improved version SMART, in four protected areas of Primorye located in main tiger habitat, namely Lazovsky Nature Reserve, Kedrovaya Pad Nature Reserve and Leopardovy Wildlife Refuge (these two areas merged into Land of the Leopard National Park in April 2012), Zov Tigra National Park and Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Nature Reserve. SMART is a patrol management tool developed to support and improve anti-poaching activities. SMART is a GIS (Geographic Information System) that makes it possible to compare standardized performance indicators between teams, conservation sites and time periods and to view patrol efforts and results on conservation site maps. SMART let rangers to record their movements, observations and efforts during their patrols. After the data from GPS units and the data collection forms are downloaded and stored in a computerized SMART database, one can assess anti-poaching work and see where patrol quality was efficient, where it is necessary to expand patrol area, and what is the best way to use available resources. SMART system let reveal “problem areas” with intensive poaching and adjust patrol strategy accordingly. And such monitoring, of course, must be on a regular basis, because SMART let reveal new threats and respond to them promptly.
Besides providing material and technical support to protected areas, the Phoenix Fund also assists them to improve professional qualification of their personnel. It is known that tracking, intercepting and arresting poachers is a risky business in itself, particularly as the Inspectors themselves may not always carry arms. More frustrating is the fact that many cases fail to reach court for prosecution due to administrative or procedural errors on the part of the protected area staff. This is usually some very minor detail, but significant enough to contravene the strict and complex regulations governing judicial process. And in this connection there was an urgent need to organize special training courses in order to increase the rate of successful prosecutions that can be made against poachers who are apprehended inside the protected area. The Phoenix Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society are always ready to assist the protected areas in training inspectors in judicial procedure. In addition, since the beginning of 2014, the Phoenix Fund has been assisting in training of environmental protection agencies employees’ on the work with unmanned aerial vehicles.
At present, the Phoenix Fund is closely cooperating with the following protected areas:
– Land of the Leopard National Park;
– United Directorate of Lazovsky Nature Reserve and Zov Tigra National Park;
– Ussuriisky Nature Reserve;
– Anyuisky National Park;
– Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Nature Reserve.
Anti-poaching teams supported by Phoenix in the past:
- two anti-poaching teams that operate in the Amur leopard range (the Khasan team, and the “Red Wolf” team)
– Khasan Team
- an anti-poaching team that operates in the Southern Khabarovsky Krai and Northern Primorye
– The Khabarovsky team
- an anti-poaching team that operates in Terneisky district (state wildlife managers team)
– Terneisky Team
- an anti-poaching team of Lazovsky nature reserve
– Anti-Poaching Team of Lazovsky Nature Reserve
- a “Forest” team that operates in Northern Primorye
– Forest Team
- a public environmental investigation team that operates in Northern Primorye
– Public Environmental Investigation Team
- an anti-poaching team of wildlife managers that operates in central and northern Primorye
– Western wildlife managers’ team