As a result of excessive logging, big cats have struggled in northeast China, with wild Siberian tiger numbers dropping drastically in recent decades. A mere nine wild Siberian tigers were estimated to be living in northeast China’s Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in 1998. That number increased to 27 by 2015, however, as a result of conservation efforts. And the global population of Amur leopards was reported to be less than 30 in 2007, but nearly doubled by 2015.
But 27 Siberian tigers is still incomprehensibly low, and Amur leopards remain critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), that reported only over 60 of these animals still remain alive in the world.
In response to the concern, China has approved a new national park in the Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces to save the two endangered species. The park, which borders Russia, will include a monitoring and rescue center for wild big cats, along with research facilities.
According to WWF Beijing’s Species Program Director Fan Zhiyong, the park could help improve relations between the two countries to conserve wildlife. The park will also serve as a channel for international interchange on protecting wild animals. The sanctuary, expected to be completed by 2020, will measure 5,637 square miles, 60% larger than Yellowstone National Park.
The Siberian tiger and Amur leopard collectively have a habitat far too small to prey on their usual elk, wild board, and deer, which has forced them to wander into residential areas in search of food. They’ve even been reported as having entered Jilin Province and eating dogs and cattle. Government officials hope the national park will alleviate some of these tensions.
“Local government plans to relocate some existing communities, factories from inside the national park area, so as to avoid conflicts between wildlife and human activities,” a spokesperson for Jilin’s Forestry Department said.
Accoding to Mongabay:
China boasts approximately 10,000 protected areas covering about 18 percent of the country, a proportion higher than the global average. But weak management and insufficient funding are threatening most of the protected areas’ conservation efforts. To revamp the management of all of China’s protected areas, in late 2013 Chinese President Xi Jinping included the development of a true national park system into the central committee’s official plans for deeper reform. Nine pilot parks across the country were announced in June 2015.
China was reported as having a “mishmash of national reserves, semiprotected forests and provincial parks” by Science Magazine, a reputation they are trying to overcome as they work to implement solutions for a dire situation.
With the World Wildlife Fund calling the Amur leopard the “world’s rarest cat,” it’s nice to know they also describe the park’s location, Amur-Heilong, as having “one of the most biologically diverse temperate forests in the world, vast steppe grasslands and the unbroken taiga biome,” making it a perfect place for the endangered species to thrive once again.
According to the Jilin forestry department, it plans to set up a monitoring and rescue center for wild tigers and leopards, along with scientific and research facilities for the national park.
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