Konstantin Chuychenko: The Amur tiger indicates the welfare of Far East nature

Konstantin Chuychenko: The Amur tiger indicates the welfare of Far East nature

6 September 2019

Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation – Chief of the Government Staff Konstantin Chuychenko, chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Amur Tiger Centre, gave an interview to Rossiya 24 television channel on the sidelines of the 5th Eastern Economic Forum. He spoke about the centre’s work as well as implemented and future projects.

Question: The environment and ecotourism in the Far East are among the central topics at the Eastern Economic Forum. If I’m not mistaken, the Amur Tiger Centre opened in 2013. What do you make of its work, and how large is the tiger population to date?


Konstantin Chuychenko: It is true that the Amur tiger indicates the environmental welfare in the Far East and gives a general picture of the status of nature. Our centre was founded in 2013 on the instruction of President Vladimir Putin. In fact, it was his personal initiative, his personal project, and we have been operating for six years now.


I would like to start by noting that we operate without any budget funds; all the projects are implemented with the money from our sponsors: individuals or private companies. In addition, by now we have learned how to earn money, and soon we will have the right to say that all the expenses related to the office and running the centre are covered by what we earn, and all the sponsors’ money goes towards our projects.


When we began this six years ago, there were about 450 Amur tigers. Today, we have expert estimations, and we believe they are accurate, so we can say that the population of Amur tigers in their natural habitat has reached 600. The strategy approved in 2010 set the goal of reaching 700 by 2022. This is a comfortable number for nature, which provides for the genetic diversity of Amur tigers and also the best tiger-human relations, because it is clear that these relations have potential for conflict.




Question: Mr Chuychenko, as far as I understand, the Amur Tiger Centre also deals with ecotourism, for example, eco-trails and safari parks. Are there plans to begin major construction here on Russky Island?


Konstantin Chuychenko: We have been sending the Tiger team to the Sikhote-Alin Biosphere Reserve to build ecotourism infrastructure for six years. We have been sending a team to the Lazovsky Nature Reserve for four years and will continue to do so; an eco-trail already loops around Petrov Island. It is a unique place, and I advise you to visit it, because the taiga is pristine there. Everything we can see now is the taiga that grew back after fires. But on Petrov Island, there is, for example, an 800-year-old yew grove. There is no other place with so many yews this old in the world. It is a truly unique, sacred place. There also are ruins of Balhae and Jurchen settlements. Today archaeologists and biologists are at odds there, because biologists are against excavations, and archaeologists insist that digging is necessary to understand history.


We have also built a recreation camp opposite Petrov Island and given it to the nature reserve. Starting next year, the reserve will make full use of it and earn money to support its employees and preserve the unique biodiversity of the reserve.


Now about the safari park. Last year, we laid the foundation stone of the nature park on Russky Island. We want to build the Amur Tiger Museum here, a beautiful, state-of-the-art museum with a strong environmental element, as well as a safari park with four open-air enclosures that will house four tigers in their natural habitat. Every enclosure will cover about two ha. People living in the Primorye Territory and other regions as well as tourists will be able to learn new things about Amur tigers at the museum and then see this beauty with their own eyes. I must say that we have not received the land permit yet and cannot begin construction there. But I believe that we will get it soon and start the design and construction work at the beginning of next year.


Question: Vladivostok celebrates Tiger Day on the last Sunday of September. Has this day become a good tradition, and what is on this year’s programme?


Konstantin Chuychenko: The president once praised Tiger Day, saying that it was the best environmental celebration in Russia. I believe this is true. If you come and see the people taking part in it, you’ll understand.


Almost 20,000 people take part in the parade, following their heart, with no one making them do it. They voluntarily come three hours in advance, line up, paint their faces and change their clothes: these are very serious preparations. The streets are full of kindness and dignity. To tell the truth, I have never seen a better celebration.


This year, there will be various activities and events on the square. The equipment of the Hunting Supervision Department will be at the front of the parade: modern cars, four-wheelers and snowmobiles. There will be an exhibition of large equipment that cannot be part of the parade due to security risks. At night, there will be a traditional concert: this year, the bands UMA2RMAN and Serga will perform. We suggested this format five years ago; we use it now and try not to gild the lily. The event will take place on Sunday, 29 September, and on Saturday the Primorskaya Stage of the Mariinsky Theatre will host a ceremony. We have invited all the employees of the Hunting Supervision Department, as well as representatives of the forest service, the territorial and local administrations, and law enforcement. We will congratulate them on this day and present state awards: we do this as a tradition, and the president has already agreed with our proposals. Of course, there will be a traditional concert. I believe the protectors of our taiga and our animals deserve this.