Diana, an Amur leopard, stretches in her enclosure at the Royev Ruchey Zoo in Russia's Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk in August. Ilya Naymushin / Reuters
A joint team from China and Russia will carry out field research on the Amur leopard as part of efforts to implement the big cat's protection program as signed in St. Petersburg, Russia, two years ago, a senior official from the Jilin Forestry Department has revealed.
Qiao Heng, deputy director of the department in charge of wildlife conservation, said a team of officials and experts in wild animal protection will travel to Russia's Primorsky Territory at the end of December. Russia will send a team back to Jilin province early next year to study the Amur leopard.
"The plan will be determined by the weather and many other variables. If conditions allow, we will send four experts to work with Russian experts for seven to 10 days," said Jiang Jinsong, from the Jilin Forest Department, who is in charge of the plan.
"Russia has lots of experience in field research which we lack. So our experts will go into the wild to learn from them. Then we will invite four Russian experts to help us do research in the Changbai Mountains," he added.
"China and Russia will share the information via wireless tracking devices and set up a unified monitoring system. We will also join forces to combat poaching," Qiao said.
The Amur leopard, living in Northeast China and Russia's Far East, is a subspecies of the Panthera genus. Data from the World Wide Fund for Nature indicates that there are only around 50 left, making it one of the most endangered species in the world.
In order to protect the predator, China established a wildlife protection zone in Jilin's Hunchun city, which borders Russia. It is the nation's first and only top-level reservation zone for big cat protection, including the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard. It covers around 1,000 square km of forest and enjoys rich biodiversity resources.
According to Sun Quan, a wildlife conservation official from Jilin who will participate in the cross-border investigation, more wild tigers and leopards have been seen in the past two years with the improvement of the local ecological environment.
China and Russia have been exploring ways to protect wild tigers and leopards in recent years. The current focus is on setting up a platform for joint monitoring, information sharing and personnel exchange between Russia's Primorsky Territory and China's Heilongjiang and Jilin provinces.
In addition to the regional exchanges, China and Russia continue to strengthen state-level cooperation. In 2010, Premier Wen Jiabao attended the tiger protection forum in St. Petersburg and promised to further intensify wild tiger protection efforts via close cooperation with concerned countries and international organizations.
Olga Sass, an official from the WWF-Russia Amur branch, said: "We are willing to strengthen cooperation with China because the wildlife migrates between China and Russia. Its protection requires not only the power of Russia, but also China."
Zhu Jiang, head of WWF China's Northeast office, spoke highly of Sino-Russian joint efforts to protect wildlife. Zhu said the Heilong River Basin, known as the Amur River Basin in Russia, is one of the most important areas of Northeast Asia, and it enjoys rich biodiversity. Hundreds of animals and birds live in this area, especially tigers and leopards.
Han Junhong in Changchun contributed to this story.
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