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NE China's wild tiger, leopard population rising

2013-11-27 09:18 Xinhua Web Editor: Mo Hong'e

Wild Siberian tigers and Amur leopards have gained a marked population increase in the forests of northeast China's Jilin province, authorities said on Tuesday.

A recent survey showed that there are 11 to 13 wild Siberian tigers and 10 to 13 Amur leopards in the forests around the Changbai Mountains, said Qiao Heng, deputy director of the Jilin Provincial Forestry Department.

The last time equivalent research was conducted, in a 1998 project by U.S. and Russian scientists, there were six to nine tigers and three to seven Amur leopards in the area.

On Oct. 9, a group of scientists captured with the help of infrared equipment video footage and photos of one Amur adult leopard with two cubs, each about six months old, in the Wangqing National Natural Reserve in Jilin.

On Nov. 6, the same group of scientists spotted footprints of one Siberian tiger along with three cubs in forests administered by the Hunchun Forestry Bureau.

The scientists have collected key evidence on the population structure of these rare animals, as well as the areas in which they are active, in the forests of Sino-Russian border regions.

"The Wangqing and Hunchun forests have become the country's most important breeding grounds of the two rare wild species as their habitats have greatly improved," said Qiao.

The hope of restoring the wild population of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards also lies with the region, he added.

Amur leopards and Siberian tigers, also known as Amur or Manchurian tigers, mainly live in east Russia, northeast China and northern parts of the Korean Peninsula.

Some 500 Siberian tigers and 40 Amur leopards are thought to currently live in the wild.

"The frequent spotting of the two endangered species of big cats indicates that their habitats are expanding and highlights theimportance of restoring the ecosystem, which is critical for species reproduction," said Jiang Guangshun, a professor of animal protection at Northeast Forestry University.

The wild Siberian tiger population began to decline after humans began developing the local forestry industry in recent decades. Poachers have also been blamed for the animals' dwindling numbers.

In May, the State Forestry Administration put the number of wild Siberian tigers in China at 18 to 22. The government aims to increase that to 40 by the year 2022.

Jilin has adopted various conservation measures by setting up monitoring networks, infrared and HD cameras, as well as cracking down on poaching, according to Qiao.

The province has signed an agreement with Russia's Primorskiy Kray border region for joint efforts in protecting wild Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, while cracking down on poaching, added Yu Changchun, director of the wildlife conservation office of the Jilin Provincial Forestry Department.

Under a draft plan, Jilin is planing to restore a 1.2 mln-hectare habitat for Siberian tigers, and to set up corridors for the tigers along the China-Russia border, the China-DPRK border, and the border between Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. The plan foresees a double of the populations of tigers and leopards.

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