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Prey for China’s endan­gered wild Amur tigers released

pub­lished 29 July 2012 | mod­i­fied 05 Decem­ber 2012

Over 30 captive-​bred red and sika deer have been released into the wild in North­east China’s Wangqing Nature Reserve to help repop­u­late the area with desir­able prey, giv­ing the country’s endan­gered wild Amur tigers plenty to cel­e­brate on Global Tiger Day.

Sika deerThe release is part of a tiger recov­ery trial project run by WWF, the Jilin Provin­cial Forestry Depart­ment and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau and rep­re­sents a cru­cial first step in pro­vid­ing the liv­ing con­di­tions Amur tigers need to thrive in the reserve’s rugged Chang­bais­han area.

There is very lit­tle prey for the 20 Amur tigers now liv­ing in Chang­bais­han, and this lim­its their num­bers in China. Increas­ing the breed­ing pop­u­la­tion of the prey will help attract more Amur Tigers in the long run
« Fan Zhiy­ong, Direc­tor of WWF China’s species programme

One tiger needs to eat the equiv­a­lent of a medium size deer every week to sur­vive and with­out ade­quate food, the tiger pop­u­la­tion rapidly declines. Many of Asia’s forests are already con­sid­ered ‘empty’, with many trees but few ani­mals.

Fifty years of decline

Over the past fifty years, the pop­u­la­tion of wild Amur tigers in North­east China has declined from an esti­mated 200 to 20 today, due to mas­sive pres­sure from defor­esta­tion, eco­nomic devel­op­ment, and poaching.

There are an esti­mated 450 Amur tigers now liv­ing in the Russ­ian Far East, but recent sight­ings show that the pop­u­la­tion is slowly mov­ing across the Chi­nese bor­der and into the country’s Wan­dashan and Chang­bais­han moun­tains, part of the Wangqing Nature Reserve. How­ever, a recent WWF-​backed sur­vey shows that the lack of prey is a major hur­dle in sup­port­ing the set­tle­ment of tigers in North­east China. The same sur­vey shows that the num­ber of ungu­late ani­mals in the Chang­bais­han area — espe­cially favoured prey such as red deer and sika deer — is too low to sup­port the recov­ery of the Amur tiger population.

“Den­sity of red deer and wild boar, for exam­ple, is only 0.3 per square kilo­me­ter, less than half the num­ber in neigh­bor­ing Rus­sia. The low prey den­sity in China means it would be extremely dif­fi­cult for the area’s forests to sup­port the recov­ery of the tiger pop­u­la­tion,” said Dr. Zhu Jiang, Head of WWF China’s North­east Office.»

Part of the solu­tion is to increase the stock of avail­able prey. We’re also work­ing on habi­tat restora­tion, and step­ping up mon­i­tor­ing to stop poach­ing. This ini­tial trial will help cre­ate the con­di­tions needed to sup­port the sur­vival of at least one female tiger within the Wangqing Nature Reserve

The above news item is reprinted from mate­ri­als avail­able at WWF-​global. Orig­i­nal text may be edited for con­tent and length.

(Source: WWF, 29.07.2012)

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