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article imageChina and Russia join efforts to protect rare Siberian tigers

By Igor I. Solar     Aug 30, 2010 in Environment
Hunchun - A cooperative agreement signed by forest and conservation representatives of China and Russia aims to create a trans-boundary protected area for the conservation of the endangered felines.
According to a statement issued by the environmental organization World Wildlife Fund (WWF) the neighbouring provinces of Jilin (China) and Primorsky (Russia) signed a formal agreement to work together to protect the Siberian tiger.
The Siberian, Amur or Ussuri tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is an endangered subspecies of tiger once abundant throughout Asia and eastern Russia. The fossil record suggests that during prehistoric times the range of this tiger may have extended as far east as Alaska. Currently, with only about 500 individuals left in the wild, its range has been reduced to the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorye (Primorsky) in far eastern Siberia, just north of the coastal region of North China, and the Chinese provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang. The region of Primorye was formerly also Chinese territory, but it was ceded to Russia in 1860.
"A trans-boundary protected area can provide a broad and healthy habitat for Amur tigers and other endangered species," said Yu Changchun, director of forest conservation in the province of Jilin.
The agreement includes the exchange of information about the tiger in the two provinces, and the establishment of a unified system for controlling and monitoring the animal. In addition both parties plan to carry out joint inspections to survey the area and develop a campaign in the Russian-Chinese border against poaching of this animal.
Spokesmen for the WWF in China expressed hope that the agreement may be extended to the neighbouring province of Heilongjiang, where most tigers of this species are found in China.
The signing of the agreement is a milestone in the struggle of several Asian and international conservation agencies. It is particularly important because it coincides with the current Year of the Tiger in the Chinese calendar.
There are 5 living sub-species of tigers in Asia (Bengal, Sumatran, Indochinese, Malayan, and Siberian). Three subspecies are already extinct and a fourth, the South-China tiger is so critically endangered that it is considered all but extinct in the wild.
The Siberian tiger is the largest of the five existing subspecies. It measures between 1.4 and 2.8 meters in length, excluding the tail, about 95 cm in height and weighs between 180 and 360 kilograms.
Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) in the snow at the Detroit Zoo.
Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) in the snow at the Detroit Zoo.
There are several reasons for the dramatic decline of the populations of tigers in Asia. Among them, is the illegal trade of tigers as pets. Current estimates indicate that up to 12,000 tigers are being kept as personal pets in the USA. That is significantly more than the world's entire population of wild tigers. However, one of the most important factors that has reduced the population of wild tigers is illegal poaching. Although there is no scientific evidence to support the notion, many people in China believes that certain tiger parts can be used as pain killers and aphrodisiacs. The Chinese government has banned the use of tiger parts for the preparation of “pharmaceutical” compounds and some offenses related to tiger poaching are punishable by death. Internationally, all trade in tigers and tiger parts is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
More about Siberian tiger, Wwf, Endangered species
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