Interview with Director of the Land of Leopard National Park Andrei Borodin

Interview with Director of the Land of Leopard National Park Andrei Borodin

14 April 2014

Mr Borodin, even a superficial look at the reports regarding the National Park makes it clear how much has been done over the past year. What was the most important achievement? 


I think that the most important thing that we did last year was to establish the structure of our park. We understood what departments we should have in the park, how many and which functions they should perform. As a result, we made changes that will be soon reflected legally in the staff schedule.


Last year, we reshuffled our security and general departments. We checked whether they fit within the work of our national park. Regrettably, we had to part with some employees, but the best remain and they are doing a great job.


Importantly, we are not watching the time go by or resting on our laurels. Our inspectors do retraining, attend professional courses and receive the relevant legal certificates. Now we have employees into whom we are prepared to invest money.


Do you see any positive results from these changes?


Absolutely. For the first time, no hoofed animals fell in winter in the Kedrovaya Pyad Reserve and Leopardovy Sanctuary. To achieve this, we carried out a number of biotechnical measures and bought a record amount of fodder for feed sites. We brought over 60 tonnes of hay, 30 tonnes of oats and maize,  and about 15 tonnes of salt. This is many times more than we did over the past few years.


So apart from quality protection, we created sound conditions for roe deer, deer and hogs, allowing them to stay en masse on this territory. In turn, this creates better opportunities for preserving and increasing the Far Eastern leopard population. These favourable conditions allowed three cubs that became famous in the Spotted Family sequel to survive in Kedrovaya Pyad. This is really a rare case. Usually one cub survives out of three and we are very glad that we have kept all three of them alive. We hope that they will take part in the new films of this sequel which is to be released soon.


In this context, much credit goes to our research department. For the first time, they installed photo traps on 90% of the leopard habitat.


We received confirmation of the strength of the leopard population announced in 2013. We have photo and video footage for this year and we are already processing it. We are confident that we can produce good news regarding the strength of the leopard population in the Primorye Territory by the year’s end.


What was the most difficult thing last year?


In the administrative context, the most difficult thing last year was to draft and get approval for planning documentation on building the park’s central mansion. This required a great deal of time and effort because we had to cover a lot of ground. We had to prepare the technical design documentation and receive approval from all of the services. We had to work a lot in this regard.


But the main point is that we have done all of these things. We’ve launched online tenders to choose a contractor that will deal with the mansion. It will have to do a lot of construction – visitor and exhibition centres with a museum, as well as cinema and lecture halls. According to the plan, it should also build a residential bloc for our employees, an office for security and researchers, two VIP cottages (150 square metres each) and some smaller cottages for tourists. There will also be a power substation, sewage facilities and parking lots.


During the second year of the park’s existence, it was also difficult to deal with court hearings linked to the shortcomings of the former administration. There were several trials over two years. Eventually, the court acknowledged that we were right and that was it.


I have to admit that one more persisting problem is the misunderstanding of the local population. People have developed the habit of using natural resources to the utmost and sometimes don’t understand what a national park is designed for. Regrettably, damage to the environment is frequently done unconscientiously. For instance, every year local residents burn grass not only on their plots, but also near the forest. They don’t gain anything, but merely destroy inspects and future trees.


We’re working with the population and understand that we cannot achieve results in a year. Yet we’re working on this and making all kinds of offers to locals. We’re trying to meet with them more often and explain that the goals we pursue will have a beneficial impact on their life. I’m primarily referring to tourism development on our territory.


Speaking about tourism, what are your plans for the park’s third year?


Today we have one route – The Path of Leopard. It is already popular with travel agencies in the Primorye Territory, but this is just the beginning. During this year, we plan to upgrade the path and organise at least one more to enable visitors to watch wildlife.


We’re also planning to establish an eco-friendly path starting from the visitor centre in the village of Barabash. We want to make this different from the rest of them by putting up a number of interactive sites and viewing platforms. This will be a weekend route that everyone can take, having parked the car at the visitor centre.


In terms of special tourism, we plan to build high seats for photographers. These are special premises from which they will be able to film leopards and other wild animals. We have three such platforms now– two are fixed and one is mobile. Our famous wildlife photographers – Viktor Maleyev, Nikolai Zinovyev and Gennady Yusin – have already tried them. They’ve taken wonderful pictures and soon everyone will be able to take wildlife shots. We are already getting ready to accept payments for this service.


Summing up, what are the park’s expectations on the eve of its third anniversary on 5 April 2015?


First of all, we hope that a strategy for its development will be endorsed until April of next year. I’m referring to a five-year plan that will specify all of our steps. It will reflect everything, including research and tourist plans.


The final endorsement of the park’s borders will be a serious event next year.

Forest regulation in the park launched last year and now we are getting prepared to receive documents on land use to turn the park into a Specially Protected Natural Area. When we make all of the legal arrangements, we’ll be able to develop tourism in this area.


By 5 April of next year, we expect to see the first outlines of the central mansion. This is very important for us. All in all, construction will take two years and we’ll make sure that this is done on time.