Russian government gives Far Eastern Leopard chance for survival
The survival of the 35 remaining Amur leopards of the Russian Far East has been given a huge boost following a government decision to establish a unified, centrally governed protected area.
The proposal will see jurisdiction of Russia’s oldest nature reserve, Kedrovaya Pad, as well as two adjacent wildlife refuges transferred to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology from the three separate agencies that currently regulate them.
“Decentralised management of the protected areas in the leopard habitat made it impossible to implement a unified program for leopard restoration over many years,” said Igor Chestin, Director of WWF Russia. “Moreover, protection of Red List species, which includes the Far Eastern Leopards, did not fall under the remit of any of the other agencies.”
Russian Vice-Premier Sergei Ivanov served as arbiter in meetings between the agencies, and his support for the proposal was key to enabling all parties to come to an agreement.
“This announcement marks the culmination of five years of hard work by WWF” added Chestin “This is a real opportunity for the leopard population in the region to gain a foothold and pull themselves up from the brink of extinction"
Once established, the joint protected area will cover about 2,000 square kilometres, and will be home to half of the remaining leopard population.
Discussions at the meeting also turned to other threats to the leopard population, including poaching and construction projects through the protected area.
“Any construction in the region should take into consideration the fragile state of this leopard population,” said Chestin. “Activities undertaken should in no way threaten the existence of the species.”
The agreement also includes a mandate for the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to start formal talks with the Chinese Government on an agreement for transboundary conservation of the Far Eastern leopard.
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