The anti-poaching team
Check out our anti-poaching team in action.
The main goal of our anti-poaching activities is to reduce the poaching of leopards and their prey in protected areas, hunting leases and other lands important for Amur leopards. However, the anti-poaching teams act against all forms of poaching, as well as against illegal trade in animal parts and medicinal plants such as ginseng. Hence, our teams help protect the whole terrestrial ecosystem.
In January 1998 ALTA established a mobile anti-poaching team that operates exclusively in the Amur leopard’s range. This was the first conservation project for Amur leopards financed by western NGOs. The team operates to this day and forms the backbone of our anti-poaching efforts in the Amur leopard’s range. The team is one of the most successful anti-poaching groups in this part of Russia and since its establishment has drawn up over a thousand citations (including 500 citations for violations of hunting regulations) confiscated more than 400 firearms and five skins or other leopard and tiger parts. They have also initiated over forty criminal proceedings.
The five-member team covers most of the Amur leopard’s range in the SW Primorye. They patrol in the forests and set up road blocks to search cars. They can be reached by phone 24 hours a day for tip-offs from their extensive local information network that produces frequent information about poaching and illegal trade activities.
The team has been using specially trained German shepherd dogs since 2004 and the first dog used “Nadezda” has now been succeeded by one of her daughters. These dogs are invaluable for tracing poachers at times where there is no snow cover and hence no visible tracks to follow.
The anti-poaching teams use a variety of transport according to weather and terrain. They use 4×4 vehicles, army trucks, two motorbikes, snowmobiles and horses and are hoping to soon have a boat at their disposal too. All vehicles are fitted with radio systems that allow for communication with rangers on foot who carry “walkie-talkie” radios.
To give them a birds-eye view of what is happening on the ground an ultralight airplane (paraplane) has been purchased and use of this is particularly effective in winter when there are no leaves on the trees. Team members in the sky will work together with colleagues on the ground to apprehend poachers that have been spotted on these air patrols.
Compensating livestock owners
We operate a compensation scheme for people who have lost livestock injured or killed by tigers and leopards. The aim of this scheme is to prevent retaliation against leopards and tigers and to increase support for leopard conservation among the local population. Most livestock kills are made at deer farms.
The anti-poaching team is contacted when a livestock kill is discovered and a team member visits and inspects the kill site within 24 hours to determine whether the animal was indeed killed by a leopard and tiger. If this is confirmed, the full value of the damage, as agreed in consultation with the owner, is paid.
A protocol is drawn up and signed and the dead animal and any evidence (hairs, tracks, bite marks) are documented and photographed. For the period from September 1999 to December 2011 a total of 99 kills were compensated (84 deer, 8 sheep and the rest were horses and cows).
In 2011, there were seven depredation cases registered at local deer farms. As many as 10 female deer and 2 calves were killed by leopards. The farmers who suffered from livestock depradation received compensation totalling $5,166 USD. In total over $30,000 USD has been paid in compensation since 1999.
This compensation project is managed by Phoenix Fund who operate out of Vladivostok. Due to limited resources the compensation scheme only runs in the Khasan district where Amur leopards are a conservation priority.