© 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 celsius 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.

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.

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”.

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.

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!