Russia: Linking community development and biodiversity conservation in the Russian Far East
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The WCS Russia office uses a relatively indirect, market-based incentive strategy to achieve conservation goals, by developing a certification scheme for tiger-friendly non-timber forest products. The Russian Far East provides habitat for the only viable population of Siberian, or Amur tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) in the world. Approximately 330-370 adult Siberian or Amur tigers are left in the wild, with 95% of these animals in the Russian Far East. The area has a unique assemblage of large carnivores, which includes tigers, brown bears, Asiatic black bears, wolves, wolverine, and Eurasian lynx. Living in northern temperate forests of low productivity, and hence low prey density, these tigers require large tracts of land to survive. Even under the most optimistic scenarios for habitat protection, it is unlikely that sufficient area will be protected to ensure conservation of Amur tigers in the long term. Therefore, managing habitat outside protected areas (in multiple-use areas) is a key issue in Amur tiger conservation efforts. Primary threats to tigers are: 1) habitat loss from intensive logging and development; 2) depletion of the prey base; and, 3) poaching of tigers (for their fur and for body parts that are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and because they are perceived as a threat to domestic livestock, dogs, and hunters' prey populations). The large majority of tiger deaths are human-caused, mostly due to poaching by hunters.