China to establish a national park to save Far Eastern leopard

China to establish a national park to save Far Eastern leopard

7 July 2016

The Chinese government will allocate 13 billion yuans (RUB 146 bln) to establish a specially protected area (SPA) bordering Russia's southern Primorye Territory. The large, experimental SPA for the conservation of the Far Eastern leopard and Amur tiger will comprise four regional and state nature reserves. Russian and Chinese experts discussed the SPA at the 10th meeting of the working group on transboundary protected areas and biodiversity conservation, part of the subcommission on cooperation in environmental protection, which, in turn, is part of the commission for the preparation of regular meetings between the governments of Russia and China. The meeting took place in Vladivostok on 5-6 July and was organised by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Land of the Leopard National Park.


“The future national park will be a unique experiment for China. This pilot project will not only combine several different SPAs but will spread across two provinces, Jilin and Heilongjiang. <…> At the moment, the nature reserves are managed by the local authorities but we are looking at the opportunity to establish a general directorate that will report to the central government. Currently, we are developing the legislative framework for this project,” said Bai Chengshou, head of the Chinese delegation and Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Ecology of the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection.


The new park will not only be involved in biodiversity conservation but also in research, biota monitoring as well as environmental education and educational travel. The Hunchun and Wangqing nature reserves that are adjacent to Land of the Leopard National Park have already been equipped with trail cameras to monitor the wild cats. With the growing population, the leopard’s habitat is expanding, including towards China.


“The number of Far Eastern leopards remains critically low. Our two countries are home to the world’s only population of these cats. Any efforts that lack bilateral cooperation will not achieve the desired outcome. We cannot act without the other’s support. Therefore, the establishment of a common national park in China based on the experience of Land of the Leopard is a very important step for the conservation of these rare animals,” Land of the Leopard National Park Director Tatyana Baranovskaya said.


In cooperation with the Chinese colleagues, Land of the Leopard obtained the first data on the population of the Far Eastern leopard and the cats’ movements across the state border. When comparing Russian and Chinese data, photo monitoring specialists identified 78 adults and nine cubs that had been photographed in both countries in 2014. It was also found that 31 leopards in this population had been spotted in both countries at different times. However, there are at least 40 leopards in Russia that never left the country and 13 permanent residents of China. The 2015 data analysis is ongoing.