© Chris Martin Bahr / WWF

Protecting Tiger
forests in the Russian Far East

A tiger silently prowls in the snowy forests of Far East Russia, stalking for prey at the height of winter. Temperatures here can dip to 40 degrees celcius below zero, making every movement an extra effort for both predator and prey. Food is scarce for everybody in this frozen landscape, even for tigers, the King of the forest.
But hunger pushes these majestic creatures to seek and hunt for food – a mid-sized wild boar or deer is needed every three to four days, if they are to survive the chilly conditions – and each tiger may need to maintain up to 400 square miles of territory.

© naturepl.com / Edwin Giesbers / WWF

Each Amur tiger may need to maintain a territory of 200 to 400 square miles – on average an area the size of New York City – in low prey density areas like Far East Russia.

In the Far East Russia and northeastern China, Amur tigers have developed a thick coat of fur that is adapted to the cold climate. Here, the Korean pine forests are a central feature of the wilderness where Amur tigers call home. Korean pine trees are often dubbed as “tiger forests”, for their fate and that of the tigers that seek their shelter are intertwined.

© Vladimir Filonov / WWF

Vladimir Alekseevich Schibnev, head of the Bikin anti-poaching group, near felled cedar-giant (Korean pine, Pinus koraiensis). The cedar is around 200 years old. These trees are highly valued for making the hardwood products—furniture, flooring, window blinds—that feed US and European consumer appetites.

Korean pine trees yield pine nuts that are key food sources for deer and wild boars. But between 2000 and 2008, logging rates have more than doubled. Over the years, as pine nut harvests became less, the number of these animals on which the tiger primarily feeds also dwindled.

WWF-Russia appealed to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Russia: loggers should not be allowed to plunder these valuable tree species if tiger conservation was to succeed.

In 2010, just before the St Petersburg Tiger Summit, the Russian government adopted a new list of tree and shrub species prohibited for timber logging. This finally included Korean Pine.

“A ban on Korean Pine logging is the best gift for the Amur tiger in the Year of the Tiger,” said Igor Chestin, CEO of WWF-Russia. “Korean Pine has a crucial importance for tiger conservation: its cones are fodder for wild boars, and wild boars are tiger’s prey”.


© Hartmut Jungius / WWF

Tigers with thick fur coat are common characteristic of those living along the Russian-China border where the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation is supporting our work on improving monitoring network. Transboundary movement of these tigers have been recorded.

The problem of logging goes beyond the Russian borders. When cedar wood remains high in demand, tiger habitats will continue to be threatened.

As Russia celebrates the Year of the Ecology this year, a year announced by the Russian President to increase public awareness and support towards environmental protection, a surprising and unpleasant news was made known to conservationist – the ban on commercial logging is to be lifted.

The decision was met with a strong collective of voices opposing this ban.

WWF-Russia and Greenpeace came forward with yet another appeal to the Ministry, this time to ask to prevent such a tragedy from happening to the Korean Pine forests. Other NGOs and local communities chorused this.

© naturepl.com / Konstantin Mikhailov / WWF

Green cones of Korean Pines. Harvests from this species are a source of income for many local communities too.

A quick turn-around was made – a new Order of the Ministry cancelled the dangerous amendments into the cutting regulations and maintained the ban for logging operations in the pine forests.

The year 2017 has been largely quoted as a year of success for the Korean Pine forests. But if we are keen to see the forests thrive, we will remain vigilant and battle the perennial issue of illegal logging.

You too can help to make sure these forests remain protected, by ensuring the wood products that you buy come from responsibly managed forests. Simply, ask for or look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Certification) logo, the next time you are buying a wooden furniture, souvenir or even paper products!

WWF works with forest managers in Russia to support this certification as the best way to demonstrate that they practice legally, socially and ecologically sound forest management. Help us encourage more companies to step up!