Manny Salvacion | Apr 11, 2015 0

An Amur tiger in captivity at the Royev Ruchey zoo in the suburbs of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia in Russia.
An Amur tiger in captivity at the Royev Ruchey zoo in the suburbs of Krasnoyarsk, Siberia in Russia. (Photo : Reuters) 

The population of the endangered big cats is rising again in Northeast China, a forest ranger in Heilongjiang Province said.

The government said that the many villagers from the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin that have long traditions of hunting are now devoted to protecting the endangered Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers.

Studies show that the endangered species, which all but disappeared from China for decades, is making a comeback in the northeast.

The Amur tiger is the largest cat living in the wild, which was abundant in the northeastern region before the 1960s, but by the 1990s not fewer than 20 only remained in the wild.

According to the latest government data, the number of wild tigers in Jilin has now risen to 27, with 12 to 14 roaming the wilds of Heilongjiang, roughly double the number reported in 2010.

Experts from the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Northeast Normal University in Changchun, wildlife NGO KORA and the University of Montana conducted a study from 2008 to 2010, which showed that about 130 Amur tigers could be accommodated in the tiger's potential habitat in Northeast China, the report said.

Shi Quanhua, senior manager of WWF, China's Asian big cats program, said that long-term monitoring revealed two major trends. One, the tigers are moving from the China-Russia border to inner areas of northeastern China; and two, they are breeding.

The report said that the WWF have video footage of Amur tigers traveling between China and Russia, as well as families of tigers with cubs spotted in the Wangqing area of Jilin.

As this developed, Jilin and Heilongjiang officials have vowed to enhance the protection of tigers, leopards and the environment.

Lan Hongliang, director of the provincial forestry authority in Jilin, said that they have banned commercial logging in the area to boost the recovery of wood resources and wildlife habitats, and establish three to five nature reserves to protect Amur tigers and their habitats with the aim of slowly forming a tiger protection network on Changbai Mountain.

Many residents of Suiyang in Heilongjiang have also been relocated out of key protection zones after the nature reserve was established and commercial logging was banned.

Zhao Shucong, director of the State Forestry Administration, said last month that the protection of the tigers is a priority of the government as national protection plan is expected to be implemented soon. He added that China is cooperating with regional authorities, as well as university and academy experts, to formulate a strategy, starting with a national survey of wild tigers.

Despite this promising discovery, conservationists said that the problem now is the unbalanced food chain in the area which makes it difficult for the tigers to find their prey or food.