Amur Heilong Ecoregion is one of the major producers of forest products, covered with dense temperate forest. Amur tiger, a charismatic big cat, is living in this forest. However, with the economic developing and human activity expanding, prey inefficiency becomes a major threat for wild Amur tigers in Northeast China (NEC) because of the decrease of big ungulate populations resulted by the loss and degradation of the forests. According to WWF’s baseline survey of ungulates in its pilot sites, which are Wangqing in Jilin province and Suiyang in Heilongjiang province where ungulates are fairly rich in number, the density of main ungulates, including red deer (Cervus elaphus), sika deer (Cervus nippon), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and roe deer (Capreolus pygargus) in NEC is about 1.0 individual/km2. As Amur tiger’s staple food, the total density of red deer and wild boars is only about 0.3 /km2, only accounting for around 50% of that in the tiger habitats in Russia. Especially, the density of red/sika deer is only 0.1 /km2. Under those conditions, it would be very difficult for the fundamental population to recover back to the prey level needed by the survival of Amur tigers in a short time as well as that need by the settlement and reproduction of Amur tigers in NEC.
To recover the wild red/sika deer population, WWF piloted wild red/sika deer population supplementary feeding program in cooperation with Wangqing Forestry Bureau of Jilin Province. The program is to supplement fundamental wild red/sika deer population through releasing captive deer population, so as to increase the dispersal and reproduction abilities of the deer population in a short time and recover the deer population rapidly.
The objectives of the program are as follows.
1. To set up a red/sika deer reintroduction pilot at Wangqing
2. To formulate an effective red/sika deer reintroduction guideline at Changbaishan and Wandashan Landscapes
3. To facilitate to establish the foundational population of red/sika deer for recovery
This program has attracted great attention from various social circles and supports both domestically and internationally. Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation(http://www.fpa2.com/) and Wanke Charity Fund(http://www.vankefoundation.org/) provided funds for the year 2011 to 2012. With those funds, WWF purchased red deer and sika deer for the wild deer population recovery project. Meanwhile, in the cooperation with the Forestry Department of Jilin Province, Northeast Forestry University, China State Forestry Administration Feline Research Center and Wangqing Forestry Bureau of Jilin Province, WWF conducted DNA examination for the red deer and sika deer population. The Wangqing Forestry Bureau valued the program greatly and provided a fund to build field fences at the Lanjia Forest Farm which is under its supervision in order to help those captive deer accommodate to the new environment in the wild. On July 29, 2012, the Global Tiger Day, those red deer and sika deer were released to the wild at the Lanjia Forest Farm.
In order to monitor the released red deer and sika deer more efficiently, together with China State Forestry Administration Feline Research Center and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau, WWF put on radio collar or implanted ID chips for the deer population before releasing. Specific staff were designated to monitor and manage the released deer population and their habitat areas. Also, they would also collect the data concerning their activity and tighten the conservation and management of the surrounding areas so as to prevent poaching.
Considering captive deer’s incapability to find food on their own in winter, WWF and the Wangqing Forestry Bureau had constructed winter supplementary feeding stations one year in advance to help the released deer population go through the severe winter and accommodate to the environment in the wild. Therefore, the deer population can reproduce in the next year and increase the growth rate of the prey population finally.
By far, the program has reached the following achievement.
- Mach-fund of 500,000 RMB from Wangqing Forestry Bureau
- Experiences gained and reintroduction guideline drafted
- Leverage for long-term and extensive investments from the Forest Department of Jilin Province
- Communication and public influence
Special thanks to Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and Wanke Charity Fund for their support to this project !