Russia’s small population of highly-endangered Amur tigers has almost halved in the last seven years despite attempts to protect them, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said on Thursday, ahead of Sunday’s Tiger Day.
Just 80 of the big cats remain in the wild in the Amur Region in Russia’s Far East, according to monitoring in 16 zones there, down from 120 in the period 2004-5.
Habitat shrinkage and a declining food base continue, despite measures to protect the animals put in place after the 2010 Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg, IFAW says. “Every year there are more orphan tigers, which is a sign of a falling population and the rate of fall in the population today represents a threat to their existence.”
“The system of protection for them is complex and incoherent, with different agencies having overlapping responsibilities, all on insufficient money, and the result of all this is that there is almost no-one out working in the taiga. There is an anti-poaching program and also a return to the wild scheme for young tigers found there – programs funded by IFAW for many years – but the population is still falling,” IFAW Russia director Maria Vorontsova said.
“Russia must strictly protect the tiger’s habitat, stop the barbaric and illegal destruction of the forest and implement a rigorous anti-poaching campaign, both against tiger-hunters and those hunting their prey,” she said. Russian law does not punish poachers caught in possession of tiger pelts, or other animal parts, she added.
In August 2012, Primorye police confiscated eight tiger skins from the head of a band of poachers but could only prosecute him for arms possession offences, she explained.
“The effort and means is there, but we need to add the state’s will and responsibility. Or Tiger Day risks becoming a day when we will have tears in our eyes,” she said.
Since 2000, Tiger Day has been marked annually on the last Sunday of September in the Far East city of Vladivostok, and is supported by the city and regional authorities and IFAW.