International Tiger Day is being celebrated in Russia as part of a four day event. Scientists, conservationists, administrators and several media personalities from around the world have gathered to discuss the current conservation status of tigers and efforts being made to protect them in the wild. Since the event is being convened in Russian Far East, the focus is on the critically endangered Amur Leopards as well as the Amur Tigers, the largest of all wild cats.
It is very encouraging to note that a number of celebrities, including Harrison Ford and Ilya Lagutenko, and major global organizations, like World Bank, have joined hands to work towards the protection and welfare of the big cats. Recently Prime Minister Putin visited the area and thanked the western scientists for acting towards the conservation of Siberian Tigers over the years. In a sign that the Russian government is interested in the preservation of their flagship species, various new measures have been announced by the administration for the preservation of the great cats. Conservationists have lauded these moves and suggested the following further initiatives:
Devise strategies and action plans in partnership with all stakeholders to address the illegal trade and other conservation needs.
Explore and develop alternative and new funding mechanisms for tiger conservation.
Facilitate country workshops and other platforms for partnership with NGOs, governments, and the scientific community at the national level to develop appropriate models of conservation.
Substantially increase the number of government inspectors responsible for the protection of tigers and leopards and other animal species and provide them adequate law enforcement rights.
Substantially increase punishments for poaching of prey in hunting areas, for possession and trade in tiger skins and other tiger parts (typical punishments are approximately RUB 2,000, whereas the potential profits are many times higher). Guns used by poachers should be confiscated permanently (presently rifles are returned to poachers after they have paid a small fine).
Protected areas provide core habitat for tigers with abundant prey for them to reproduce. In 2007 two National Parks were established in the Amur tiger habitat. More protected areas are needed and existing protected areas need to be linked with corridors.
The needs of leopards and tigers should be taken into account when planning large infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines.
I hope that these policies get adapted as well, for they will go a long way towards conservation of the critically endangered cats of Siberia.