Drones to keep an eye on big cats

Jilin prov­ince co­op­er­ates with Rus­sia to pro­tect en­dan­gered Siberian tigers, Amur leop­ards

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINYING zhaoxiny­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

Jilin prov­ince is plan­ning a se­ries of mea­sures to pro­tect en­dan­gered Siberian tigers and Amur leop­ards, some of which in­habit ter­ri­tory along China’s bor­der with Rus­sia, ac­cord­ing to a pro­vin­cial forestry of­fi­cial.

The prov­ince plans to in­vest an es­ti­mated 12.8 bil­lion yuan ($2 bil­lion) in the pro­ject, mak­ing use of ad­vanced tech­nolo­gies and col­lab­o­rat­ing with Rus­sia to pro­tect the two species, said Lan Hongliang, di­rec­tor of the Jilin Forestry Depart­ment, at a sym­po­sium in Bei­jing onWed­nes­day.

Ac­cord­ing to Lan, un­manned aerial drones will be used to keep an eye on the tigers and leop­ards in the fu­ture. About a dozen drones will be pur­chased to mon­i­tor the an­i­mals’ ac­tiv­i­ties.

“We have also co­op­er­ated with Rus­sia on the es­tab­lish­ment of pro­tec­tion zones and per­son­nel ex­changes,” Lan said. “We hope to fur­ther that co­op­er­a­tion in the fu­ture.”

Joint mon­i­tor­ing by China and Rus­sia found that there are at least 35 Siberian tigers and 70 Amur leop­ards in an area around Rus­sia’s Land of the Leop­ard Na­tional Park and China’s Hunchun, Jilin prov­ince, near the bor­ders of China, Rus­sia and the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of Korea.

But the area, which mea­sures no more than 4,000 square kilo­me­ters, is iso­lated — blocked on the north, south and east. The tigers and leop­ards are un­able to en­ter the Rus­sian in­te­rior. What’s more, the num­ber of the an­i­mals in the area has ex­ceeded its eco­log­i­cal car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, said ecol­o­gist Ge Jianping.

It is a great op­por­tu­nity for China to have more wild Siberian tigers and Amur leop­ards.”

“Un­der such cir­cum­stances, the tigers and leop­ards can only come west­ward to the large forested ar­eas in North­east China,” said Ge, who is also vice-pres­i­dent of Bei­jing Nor­mal Univer­sity and vice-pres­i­dent of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of China Demo­cratic League. “It is a great op­por­tu­nity for China to have more wild Siberian tigers and Amur leop­ards.”

To seize the op­por­tu­nity, Lan said mea­sures should be taken to re­duce graz­ing and other hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties around Hunchun to make space for the big cats.

“In this way, the tigers and leop­ards could en­ter the forests of Chang­bai Moun­tains and Hei­longjiang prov­ince’s Lesser Hing­gan Moun­tains,” Lan said.

“It’s im­por­tant for the liv­ing and breed­ing of th­ese en­dan­gered species in China.”

From 2012 to 2014, at least 27 Siberian tigers were found ac­tive in North­east China, all along a 5-kilome­ter cor­ri­dor on the Chi­naRus­sia bor­der. The num­ber of wild Siberian tigers in Rus­sia was re­ported to have reached 540 last year.

Su Zhou con­trib­uted to this story.

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