It was just another day at work for government field staff member Ge Lin and her colleagues when their team had an unexpected encounter.
Located in China’s northeastern province of Jilin Province, the drive to the Wangqing Forestry Bureau is normally uneventful. However, on this rare occasion they were surprised to find a tiger emerging from the forest. Staying safely in their vehicle with the doors and windows shut the team were able to assess the tiger, confirming it was healthy. The inquisitive tiger paused before heading on its way.
What’s special about this exciting encounter is that only a decade ago meeting a wild tiger like this in China would have been almost impossible.
In 2010 there were very few tigers in China, no more than 20, and these animals were most likely transient visitors from Russia. In China at this time, there was insufficient prey, designated parks or protection for tigers. It was clear that without substantial conservation efforts there wouldn’t be a future for tigers in the country.
After robust action by the government and conservation groups, including WWF, a glimmer of hope appeared in 2014 when camera traps photographed a tigress with her cubs in Jilin Wangqing Nature Reserve. It was a landmark moment confirming tigers were once again breeding in China.
Although habitat loss and poaching of their prey remain a threat to tigers, conservation efforts over the last decade have greatly reduced their impact. Rangers have played an integral role in reducing the threat of poaching, acting as the eyes and ears of the forest. Patrol teams trek for hours across unforgiving terrain; gathering data, removing snares, and deterring poachers.
One ranger team in the Dongning Forestry Bureau which borders Russia has begun to notice positive changes in the landscape thanks to their conservation efforts.
“The territory is wider, the food is richer, and the species are now more diverse."- Qui Shi, a member of the Dongning Forestry Bureau ranger team.
To address the problem of habitat loss and lack of connectivity between tiger habitats WWF-China has initiated a national campaign #TigersNeedCorridors. It calls on the government to increase the number of wildlife corridors to help tigers and other wildlife move freely. Connecting tiger populations will not only increase their chance of reproduction but also support the global goal to double wild tigers, known as TX2.
Rare encounters like this with wild tigers are a reminder of what is at stake in China’s northeast. The continued conservation efforts of the government, WWF, and local partners have made it possible for this iconic species to begin to recover in China, symbolising hope for the future of tigers.