A simultaneous full-range Amur tiger census begins in Primorsky Province, Russia on January 31st 2015. The launch date of this key event in tiger research was determined by the fresh snow that fell this week.
“This year in the southwestern Primorye not only tiger will be counted. Another hero of the survey will be the Amur leopard” - Pavel Fomenko – Species Program Coordinator of WWF Russia Amur branch
A highlight of the Amur tiger survey is when two thousand people walk almost simultaneously along transects in the forest. The total length of survey transects will reach 15,000 km, which is equal to the distance from Vladivostok to London and back! In total, 150,000 km2 of tiger habitats will be covered, which is an area more than three times the size of the Netherlands!
“As the weather conditions differ significantly on such a huge territory, with heavy snows in the north of Primorsky and Khabarovsky Provinces and the fear of rain in the southern Primorye, we have decided to conduct the research in stages starting from the south upward”. - Pavel Fomenko – Species Program Coordinator of WWF Russia Amur branch
In Russia, a full-range Amur tiger census is held every 10 years. According to the last census, conducted in 2005, there were estimated to be 423-502 Amur tigers in the south of the Russian Far East. This figure comprises 95% of the population of this this subspecies on the planet.
In 2005, the census was carried out by WWF Russia and WCS, with the support of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The tiger census of 2015 is organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, with the support of the Amur Tiger Centre and WWF. The lead in scientific coordination is taken by the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Field workers will record the location of the striped cats, identify their age and gender by the size of the paw print, and determine the number of cubs. This data, as well as a variety of other information about the tiger, its prey and other competing predators, will be accumulated in trackers’ diaries and will later become the basis for a digital database.
Pavel Fomenko, biodiversity conservation program coordinator at WWF Russia Amur branch, is one of 23 coordinators of this major event. He is in charge of conducting the census in the most difficult and most interesting area – the southwestern Primorye, which is home to both the Amur tiger and Amur leopard.
The census results will enable the scientists to assess the current status of the Amur tiger and will give them the unique chance to analyze what has occurred over the last ten years and how effective efforts were to protect the species.
The interim results of the census will be summed up by the end of May 2015 with the final report to be released in October 2015.
The census will help government agencies and non-governmental organizations to coordinate efforts in conservation of rare animals and the entire unique ecosystem of the southern Far East.
It is likely that the Strategy of the Amur Tiger Conservation in Russia will be amended based on the data received during the tiger census.