The tiger count in the Primorye Territory has been completed a month behind schedule due to lack of snowfall

The tiger count in the Primorye Territory has been completed a month behind schedule due to lack of snowfall

5 April 2011

The second phase of assessing the Amur tiger population in the Primorye Territory has been completed a month behind schedule due to lack of snowfall.


In 2011, funding for assessing the tiger population was raised through a programme for researching the Amur tiger in Russia's Far East, which is being executed by an ongoing expedition of the Russian Academy of Sciences in conjunction with the Special Inspection "Tiger", a federal entity established to protect rare and threatened species of animals and plants and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).


The Amur tiger is among the rarest predators on the planet. It has been placed on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Threatened Species. Some 450 Amur tigers live in the Primorye and Khabarovsk territories, according to the latest count in early 2010. Russian and international organisations are working hard to combat a continuing downward trend in their numbers.


Amur tiger populations have been annually monitored since 1997 in coordination with the Wildlife Conservation Society. Specialists study the tigers' tracks on the snow to determine the number of tigers in the area and their ages. In doing so, zoologists also obtain information about hoofed animals, such as deer, Manchurian deer, elks, and wild boars, which are normally on the tiger's menu.


Last December, the first phase of the Amur tiger count took place at 16 different sites: five of them in the Khabarovsk Territory and the rest in the Primorye Territory. The routes researchers took to study the tigers' tracks were from 3 to 20 kilometres long. The researchers measured all tracks in centimetres and recorded the data in special formats alongside information about signs of the tigers' activity (periods of rest, feces), as well as information on the condition of snow cover and the surrounding landscape.


"The problem we encountered during our survey in the south of the Primorye Territory was that in the second half of the winter, there was a long period without snowfall, and therefore it was difficult for us to spot predators' tracks. Light snowfall arrived only at the beginning of March, when researchers began counting," said Sergei Aramilev, a participant in the survey and the coordinator of the programme to conserve biodiversity being carried out by the Amur branch of the World Wildlife Fund in Russia. He also said that, initially, they had planned to complete the count in February.


Now researchers will enter the data on the tigers' tracks collected in the taiga, including their number, size, and location, in a special database in order to analyse it. Normally, this process takes one to two months.


Zoologists have cancelled the count of leopards in the Far East across the entire range of this subspecies, which is also on the WCU's Red List. The count was scheduled for March, but was put off due to lack of fresh snow and the impossibility of spotting the animals' tracks.