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AHEC Newsletter 66

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Content

ASIAN BIG CATS

A QUICK ASSESSMENT INDICATOR SYSTEM OF TIGER HABITAT IN THE NE CHINA

In December 2022, with the support of WWF, Heilongjaing Nature and Ecology Institute and Jilin Forestry Science Research Institute completed the pilot of indicator system of tiger habitat in Laoyeling and Changbai Mountains. The discussions of the research results were held in 13th December. The experts from Northeast Forestry University, Tiger and leopard National Park and National Forestry and Grassland Administration agreed that this indicator system was successfully tested in the tiger habitat and it has a high practical value. For the next step, WWF will carried out the tiger habitat evaluation in Tiger and Leopard National Park to explore the sites of habitat restoration in next years.

THREE NEW RESEARCH STATIONS HANDED OVER TO THE SIKHOTE-ALIN NR TO STUDY THE AMUR TIGER

They are built with the support of WWF-Russia. The new scientific stations have been equipped in three sites of the protected area: Ust-Serebryany located in the central part (at the mouth of the Serebryany spring), Kuruma - in the southern part (in the Kuruma riverbed), and Sagdievskaya - in the northwest (on the banks of the Columbe river). Each station is a spacious building made of wood, adapted for year-round use. According to Peter Osipov, head of WWF-Russia Amur branch, “Such permanent wooden cabins are the most important “basis” for nature reserves and national parks. The appearance of these sites, equipped for a comfortable stay of inspectors and researchers, makes the research work and patrolling of the territory more productive and effective”.

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All new cabins are designed according to a unified project and are adapted for living up to 5-6 people at any time of the year. The inspectors who patrol this area, research officers or visiting scientists who conduct their research here will be able to stop here. The NR’ administration plan to continue renovate the wooden constructions in other parts of the reserve and to provide the most visited cordons and stations with small power systems with solar panels. The construction of the research stations was a final activity of the joint project between WWF Russia, WWF US and Discovery that started in 2021.

More details are here

DIET-INDUCED MICROBIAL ADAPTATION PROCESS OF RED DEER UNDER DIFFERENT INTRODUCED PERIODS

Insufficient prey density is a major factor hindering the recovery of the Amur tiger. To effectively restore the Amur tiger, red deer were released to the Huangnihe National Nature Reserve of Northeast China as the main reinforcement. Differences in feeding and synergistic changes caused by the intestinal microbial communities could impact the adaptation of wildlife following reintroductions into field environments. We analyzed the foraging changes in shaping the intestinal microbial community of the red deer after being released to the Huangnihe National Nature Reserve and screened the key microbial flora of the red deer when processing complex food resources. The feeding and intestinal microbial communities of the red deer were analyzed by plant Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) barcoding sequencing and 16S rRNA high-throughput sequencing, respectively.
The results showed that there were significant differences in food composition between wild and released groups [released in 2019 (R2): n = 5; released in 2021 (R0): n = 6]; the wild group fed mainly on Acer (31.8%) and Abies (25.6%), R2 fed mainly on Betula (44.6%), R0 had not formed a clear preferred feeding pattern but had certain abilities to process and adapt to natural foods. Firmicutes (77.47%) and Bacteroides (14.16%) constituted the main bacterial phylum of red deer, of which, the phylum Firmicutes was the key species of the introduced red deer for processing complex food resources (p < 0.05). The wild release process significantly changed the intestinal microbial structure of the red deer, making it integrate into the wild red deer. The period since release into the wild may be a key factor in reshaping the structure of the microbial community. This study suggested that the intestinal microbial structure of red deer was significantly different depending on how long since captive deer has been translocated. Individuals that have lived in similar environments for a long time will have similar gut microbes. This is the adaption process of the wildlife to natural environment after wild release, taking into account the gut microbes, and the feeding changes in shaping microbial communities can help introduced red deer match complex food resources and novel field environments. Those important results were published on the Frontiers in Microbiology in Oct 2022.

Paper Link

THE POLTAVSKY WR IN PRIMORYE HAS BECOME A PERMANENT HOME FOR THE AMUR LEOPARDS FAR EASTERN LEOPARDS

The Amur leopards continue to successfully settle outside the borders of the Land of the Leopard NP in Primorye. According to Alexey Kostyria, head of the Rare Species Unit at WWF Russia Amur branch, the work on studying the ways of settling leopards outside the national park using camera traps has been carried out jointly with the scientific department of the Land of the Leopard NP for more than five years. The Poltavsky WR is one of the main monitoring sites outside the borders of the federal protected area, since it is the most accessible area for the spotted cats to settle.
For a long time, the territory of the Land of the Leopard NP was the only place where the last population of these rare cats was preserved. Thanks to the coordinated work of the park’s staff over ten years of the existence of this PA, it was managed to do almost impossible – the leopard population has tripled, and the subspecies has moved away from the dangerous line of complete extinction. However, the rapid growth in the number of rare cats has, as expected, aggravated the “housing issue” in the national park and the population has, as expected, begun to expand the area beyond its borders, primarily in the northern direction, where the Poltavsky WR is located. And if, five years ago, when we first installed camera traps in Poltasky WR, leopards appeared there rather sporadically, just passing by, now we can say with confidence that this territory has become a full–fledged part of the leopard’s’ range: automatic cameras have been recording the same individuals for two years in a row year-round - a resident male and a female with two kittens,” said Alexey Kostyria.

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This year, it was decided to expand the photo monitoring network in the WR to new areas that were not previously covered. The staff of the Park and WWF installed additional cameras during a field expedition held in early December. An increase in the number of cameras will allow to obtain more complete information about the number of leopards in the refuge, as well as to determine the size of the plot of the resident male named Poltavsky.

WHEN THE BELT IS GREEN

ORIENTAL STORK NESTS SAVED FROM FIRES

Seasonal fire prevention treatment for trees with Oriental stork nests continues with the support of WWF-Russia in Amurskaya and Evreiskaya province, key habitats of this rare bird. Over 16 years WWF-Russia together with the Stork Nest Keepers community and partners from public and state environmental organizations have been regularly working to protect stork nests from fires. Every year in autumn, fire prevention treatment is carried out for trees with nests: dry grass around them is mowed and removed, and the tree trunk is treated with a special firestop spray. In total, 200 stork nests will be protected this year.
Thanks to the systematic and responsible work of all the parties involved, the death of trees with nests from fires in key stork habitats has been reduced to almost zero - this is a great success and a serious contribution to species conservation. The results speak for themselves: over the past 27 years, the number of the Oriental stork has more than doubled and today it is estimated at 6,500 individuals.
The work to protect nests from fires in Amurskaya province is carried out by employees of the regional Directorate for Protected Areas jointly with NGO AmurSEU, the Bars student nature protection brigade, employees of the Botanical Garden and volunteers. This year, processing traditionally began in October. In the Khingan-Arkharinskaya lowland, the Khingan Keepers NGO and employees of the Khingansky NR are protecting nesting trees from fires. 35 nests have already been processed so far: 10 nests on the territory of the Khingansky Nature Reserve and 25 - outside the protected area.

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In Evreiskaya province, stork nests are protected by activists of the NGO “Bagulnik”, the community “Stork Nest Keepers”, employees of the Directorate for Protected Areas of Evreiskaya province, as well as employees of electric greed company “ES EAO”. 67 nests have been protected from fires by now, and 6 more nests in hard-to-reach places will be prevented when it becomes possible to get to them.

More details are here

CHILDREN’S “NATURE PROTECTOR” COMPETITION WAS OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED

The 2022 Children’s “Nature Protector” Competition arranged by Culture Channel of Jilin Radio and TV Station, Shenzhen One Planet Foundation (OPF) and Jilin Provincial Museum of Nature, officially launched on October 16. The participants are primary school students from grade one to grade six in Jilin Province. The competition is divided into three stages: preliminary, promotion and the final. The young participants will experience a 2-month competition schedule, the final will be opened at the end of December. From uploading nature conservation videos online, answers of questions of nature conservation, training at the nature museum, to the finals. More than 10,000 students have participated in the preliminary contest online.
The competition aims to improve the scientific quality and nature protection awareness of primary school students, cultivate students’ love for nature, encourage the children to get close to nature, appreciate nature, cherish life, and actively participate in wildlife protection. During the competition, the contestants will receive systematic training in Jilin Provincial Museum of Nature to increase their natural knowledge and to strengthen the theoretical and practical ability of wildlife protection.
The finals will be broadcast on The Colorful Campus of Jilin Radio and TV Channel Seven. At the same time, the organizing committee will issue certificates to excellent students, excellent instructors and excellent organizations. The champion of the competition will be awarded the title of “Little Tiger Protector”. All contestants will participate in the summer camp training held in Jilin Provincial Museum of Nature, interact with professional science commentators and protectors, and exchange the protection experience.
Yin Xiaotong, producer of Jilin Radio and TV Culture Channel, said: “Compared with the main subjects such as mathematics and Chinese, the nature education in schools is generally weak. We cooperate with primary schools in Jilin Province to promote children’s attention and understanding of nature and wildlife protection. The competition itself is also a process of nature education. To stimulate children’s interest in ecological environment and biodiversity protection, and to exercise their expression ability. The children are also expected to become a protector of the future.
Du Ajiao, the project officer of OPF, said: “This year, the children actively participated in the event. Although they are young, they are full of curiosity and enthusiasm for nature conservation. They have strong learning ability and can become a force for protection.”

TREE PLANTING SUCCESSFULLY CONTINUES IN KHAR YAMAAT NATURE RESERVE

WWF-Mongolia is responsible for conservation management of Khar Yamaat Nature Reserve in Eastern Mongolia in accordance with the Agreement between WWF-Mongolia, Ministry of Environment and Green Development, and Khentii and Sukhbaatar province governments made in 2013. Under the Agreement, the Nature Reserve’s conservation activities are successfully implemented through active stakeholder engagement.
Amongst, annual tree planting or forestation has been done in a fivehectare area under a campaign “Tree Retains Water-Water Retains Life” launched in 2017. In this forestation area, the species such as Ulmus pumila, Rosa acicularis, Rhododendron dauricum, Armeniaca sibirica, and Ribes diacantha are grown. On October 15, 2022, the Community Tree Planting Day, a total of 1,025 elm seedlings were planted in the forestation area. The tree planting was done by over 130 local people including officials and officers from local government, school, kindergarten, health centre, and private entities, and local residents. Moreover, a local co-operative donated and planted 25 elm seedlings in the area.

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On the Community Tree Planting Day, the participants planted for restoration, in addition to planting of seedlings in the forestation. According to the local government and communities, the five-hectare forestation area will be a park, one of key tourist destinations in the Nature Reserve, in the future.

THE PUBLIC CHAMBER TOLD HOW TO PROTECT RIVERS FROM POLLUTION DURING PLACER GOLD MINING IN 2023

On December 13, in the Public Chamber (PC) of Russia, representatives of the Public Councils of the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia, Rosprirodnadzor, Rosvodresurs and Rosnedra summed up the results of the washing season of placer gold 2022 and noted the increase in river pollution from gold mining. Such results indicate the relevance and importance of compliance with the recommendations developed by the Coordinating Council for Environmental Well-being of the PC (“Environmental Aspects of Placer Gold Mining” recommendations dated February 01, 2022).
“Today we are holding a control meeting. In February, the Coordinating Council for Environmental Well-being held an event dedicated to the environmental aspects of placer gold mining. As a result, recommendations of the PC were issued. They have voiced a number of proposals, including an increase in administrative fines. Almost a year has passed since that moment, so we can sum up some results, what has been taken into account, what is not, and where to we move on,” noted Elena Sharoikina, chairman of the Coordinating Council for Environmental Well-being.
According to the public monitoring of pollution during the extraction of placer gold, conducted in 2019-2022 by the Coalition “Rivers without Borders” and the Center for Civil Control and Satellite Monitoring, the length of contaminated sites in all regions in 2022 increased by 5,544 km (+48.3%) compared to the previous year, by 7,723.25 km (+83.1%) compared to 2020. Amurskaya Province remains the leader in the number of pollutants – 41% of the number of cases and extent, in second place is Zabikalsky Province (25% of cases and 26% of extent), followed by the Krasnoyarsky Province with 7% in number and 8% in length, KhabarovskymProvince (7% and 5%, respectively), Kemerovskaya Province (6% and 9%), the Republic of Tyva (5% and 4%), the Republic of Khakassia (4% and 1%), Evreiskaya Province (3% and 4%) and Primorsky Province (2% for both indicators). Experts agree that the main reason for the increase in pollution are prospecting licenses, which are issued by the application procedure and used by unscrupulous prospectors’ teams for semi–legal gold mining with violation of technology. Their number makes up the majority of the total number of operating licenses in all regions, exceeding 70% in the main gold mining regions. The participants of the event also noted that the problem is aggravated by the fact that some inspections were canceled this year.
“It is important that the authorities both in the regions and at the federal level recognize the scale of the problem. So, this year, Amursky Province and the Republic of Khakassia joined the number of regions advocating a temporary moratorium on search operations by application. And the Prosecutor General’s Office of Russia has put the activities of gold mining enterprises under special control,” comments Alexey Knizhnikov, head of WWF’s Environmental Business Responsibility Program.
According to the experts gathered, improvement of the situation in 2023 is impossible without the implementation of the recommendations of the PC of Russia before the start of the new washing season. In particular, in order to prevent unscrupulous users from obtaining prospecting licenses, it is necessary to introduce a restriction on their issuance. And also - to abandon the moratorium on inspections of the implementation of environmental legislation by enterprises engaged in the extraction of placer gold. Restrictions should also be imposed on the issuance of licenses for the search, exploration and extraction of placer gold in areas of rivers not previously affected by such activities, near and upstream of PAs and settlements.

ONLINE PERMISSION SYSTEM FOR HOUSEHOLD FISHING IS IN USE

On October 28, 2022, the online permission system for household fishing officially launched in website and hand over to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET). This permission system is designed for household purpose. According to the legal environment, the MET made a decision to have an online fishing permission system introduce to the nationwide through the Provincial Departments for Environment and Tourism, and soum’s Governor’s Offices. The online permission system for household fishing provided almost all information about fish species and its ecology and biology, distribution, conservation status for legal fishing game management areas. This permission system will be prevented the illegal fishing and over use for the selected fishing based on the fish stock surveys. The launching event on fishing permission system at nationwide officially attended by the state secretary of MET and related officials and ichthyologists and provider company on permission system,and exchanged their importance and advantages of online permission system for household fishing which introduced in the first time on the household permission for nationwide under the MET.
WWF-Mongolia in collaboration with the provincial department at Khentii province has tested the pilot online permission system for household fishing in Onon River since 2016. The pilot action has been successful as a result of dedicated efforts of the parties and has become one of the online public services in the country. To apply for permission of household fishing, the applicant access to the www.ezagas.mn used any URL accessed high technology.

SCIENTISTS ARE LOOKING FOR WAYS TO REDUCE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF AGRICULTURAL CHEMICALS ON STORKS AND CRANES IN THE AMUR RIVER BASIN

In the Amurskaya Province, work has been completed to assess the impact of agricultural chemicals on rare birds of the Amur Basin - cranes and storks. This will help specialists to develop recommendations for agricultural producers to reduce the negative impact on rare birds and their food supply. A joint study with the support of WWF was conducted by specialists of the Khingansky NR, the Amur Socio-Ecological Union (AmurSEU), an NGO, and the Far Eastern State Agrarian University. Research work was carried out in the south of the Zeysko-Bureinskaya plain and on the Khingano-Arkharinskaya lowland in the Amursksya Province. These are the largest agricultural areas of the region and the Russian Far East as a whole, at the same time being the key nesting sites of rare birds like Oriental stork, red-crowned and white-naped cranes.
During field trips in the spring and autumn of 2022, scientists took dozens of samples of water and bottom sediments in reservoirs where cranes and storks feed. Samples of their food objects (fish, mollusks and amphibians) and the discovered biomaterial – egg shells, feathers, blood, muscle and bone tissue of dead birds were also collected. All the samples taken were studied for the content of heavy metals, which are part of agricultural chemistry, phosphates and nitrites, as well as the oxygen content in water samples. The analyses showed that in part of the samples of water and food objects of birds taken from small reservoirs located near farmland, there is an excess of the maximum permissible concentrations of heavy metals such as mercury and lead. A high content of mercury, cadmium and arsenic was found in the feathers of stork chicks. In addition, researches also measured the weight and size of the body parts of the chicks – the length of the body, paws, beak, wings. As a result of the comparison, a direct relationship was established: the higher the content of heavy metals in the feather of a chick, the smaller its weight and body size, which proves that mercury, cadmium and arsenic negatively affect the development of chicks of these birds. The source of pollution of water bodies through which heavy metals enter the body of birds, given their location, is most likely agricultural activity, more precisely, the active use of fertilizers and pesticides in the cultivation of soybeans and other crops.
Next year, the work on studying the migration of chemistry in the food chains of birds will continue. Scientists plan to evaluate other factors of the impact of agricultural activity on protected bird species – landscape fires resulting from burning of stubble and dry straw in the fields, burning out of hayfields and pastures, drainage and plowing of crane habitats, and others.
This will make it possible to develop recommendations for agricultural producers on conducting activities in the cranes and storks habitats, to form proposals for the creation of zones with special conditions of use in key areas, as well as the implementation of other measures aimed at reducing the negative impact on rare birds.
According to Peter Osipov, head of WWF Russia Amur branch, “The rapid development of agriculture in Amurskaya Province, accompanied by the intensive introduction of new arable lands, leads to increased anthropogenic pressure on valuable freshwater ecosystems and their inhabitants. In addition to the reduction of habitual habitats, due to drainage and plowing of floodplain areas of reservoirs, a significant factor in the negative impact on storks and cranes is the use of various agrochemicals by agricultural producers. History knows precedents when the use of aggressive pesticides adversely affected populations of rare birds. In particular, the story of the disappearance of the Oriental stork from Japan is notorious, where the large-scale use of agricultural chemicals has become one of the key factors in the loss of its wild population. We cannot allow this to happen again in our country, so it is very important to understand the depth of the problem and timely prepare scientifically sound recommendations to agricultural producers to reduce the impact of their activities on the environment.”

LOCALS ARE STARTING TO SORT OUT HOUSEHOLD WASTES

WWF-Mongolia collaborates with Dadal soum (sub-province) of Khentii aimag (province). In 2018, the Programme Office assisted the sub-province in preparation of its Midterm Green Development Plan and the plan’s implementation is underway for now. One of the focus areas in the mid-term plan is to improve public awareness on environmentally friendly living and working attitudes and practices among local communities which is actively facilitated by the Programme Office. Thus, household waste management is of paramount importance for the locals. An awareness raising and demonstration training on household waste sorting was organized for service workers of local government institutions and bagh governors in the soum. A key message of the training was that input from each individual needed for properly disposal of household wastes through sorting out recyclable waste materials. The training participants have agreed to be the actors to sort out and weigh recyclable materials from their household and workplace wastes on weekly basis and report what portions of the wastes were prevented to be thrown in the environment.

PREPARATION OF MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR NEWLY ESTABLISHED NATIONAL PARK STARTED

In May, 2020, the Mongolian Parliament adopted a total of 10 Protected Areas (PAs) whose proposals and justifications were presented by WWF-Mongolia in cooperation with the respective parties including local communities thereof. One of these newly established PAs is Gutai Davaa-Khumuul Golyn Ekh National Park (NP), which has scenic natural areas. Following its establishment, the park’s conservation management was put with Onon Balj National Park Administration, but the park has had its administration that was newly established in 2022. First round discussion for preparation of management plan for the newly established Gutai Davaa-Khumuul Golyn Ekh NP for 2023-2027was held in Binder and Batshireet sub-provinces of Khentii province. A main approach of the plan drafting is participatory, so the first discussion was attended by representatives from governmental, non-governmental, and community-based organizations and the herder households that engage in traditional livestock herding in the park. The participants have exchanged their views on the key and concerning issues to be addressed in the plan.
Decision on taking the naturally scenic areas under state protection was made timely just before the intention to extract gold in upper area of a river. If the mining took place in the basin, the Onon River and its basin, the upper area of Amur River, were irreversibly deteriorated and lost. Thus, the decision was right and timely, according to the locals.

TOGETHER FOR CONSERVATION EFFECTIVENESS

MONGOLIAN GAZELLES WERE FITTED WITH SATELLITE TRACKING COLLARS

In November 2022, 10 individuals of Mongolian gazelle were fitted with satellite tracking collars. The gazelle collaring was done through a joint team effort of local stakeholders including specialists and officers from the Environment and Tourism Department of Sukhbaatar province, rangers, and veterinarians from the province. WWFMongolia has been implementing a monitoring on Mongolian gazelle migration since 2016 to collect the baseline data on migratory routes and seasonal movements of the gazelle herds that will be used for science based designation of wildlife crossings at the railroad to be built through Eastern Mongolia.

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To capture gazelles for collaring, a 1,5-meter-high net made of soft rope was used. Proper and secure placing of the net was an important task during the work. The net was safe, without causing any injuries to the gazelles caught in. The poles supporting the net were placed free on the ground at 60-70 degrees leaning towards the net, so that they will easily fall down and let the net loose when gazelles hit them. To have some gazelles caught in, some of the team members rode motorbikes and drove a car guiding gazelles slowly into the net. As they get closer, they purposely increase their speed to chase gazelles into the net.
“To comfort captured gazelles, we closed their eyes with soft cotton wraps and kept a noise at minimum. The gazelles were set free after they were fitted with collars and their biological data were collected. No more than five minutes were spent on each gazelle collaring process” the specialists said.
According to the previous years’ monitoring data (WWF-Mongolia), the Mongolian gazelle herds seasonally move into territories of two neighbouring countries (The Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China). Thus, the monitoring results and findings suggest that conservation of the Mongolian gazelle, an iconic species of the steppe, is subject to international effort, especially trans-boundary conservation actions, not just the conservation of the species within Mongolia.

SAMAP HELPS IMPROVE ANTI-POACHING EFFECTIVENESS

In December 2022, during the time of the year when poaching is relatively likely to be occurred, WWF supported the patrol grid members and community grid members in the Anti-poaching Supervision Assessment Mechanism (SAMAP) pilots for the snare removal within the Tiger and Leopard National Park. The SAMAP grid members have performed well in the SAMAP project. And they have been strongly encouraged by SAMAP and exhibited their ability in their daily patrol. The grid members have completed the daily patrol work in their own protected areas; and they will also support other protected areas as the third party anti-poaching project members to complete anti-poaching work. This method allows more capable rangers to participate and support more protected areas.
Li Dongdong, as one of the SAMAP grid members, gained 99.3 points in the 2021-2022 SAMAP assessment; he is one of the most outstanding rangers in the SAMAP pilot areas and will be awarded in the end of the year. Through this awarding mechanism, more rangers get encouraged in their daily patrol work.

EXPERIENCE SHARING EVENT FOR RANGERS

Experience sharing is useful and informative for actors and participants in environmental conservation. With support of WWF-Mongolia, an experience sharing event was organized for rangers from Onon-Balj National Park (OBNP) and Eastern Mongolia Protected Area. The main topics included the issues such as how to carry out field research and monitoring; how to mobilize local governments, military frontier units, and local community based organizations into conservation management; and how to properly and efficiently schedule rangers’ daily tasks while on duty.
Eastern steppe is a specific or unique ecosystem; for instance, it provides important stopover and nesting grounds to diverse migratory birds including globally threatened and endangered species. Therefore, rangers from Eastern Mongolia Protected Area carry out field studies and observations for registration and documenting (counting) along main flyway routes of migratory birds in the steppe. In the fields, the PA rangers do collaborate with international and national ornithologists and their teams. These opportunities provide the rangers with a great chance to learn about new research and monitoring methodologies. OBNP is also home to some of the migratory birds, so the new migratory bird research and monitoring methods were interesting for the park rangers. Rangers from Eastern Protected Area presented their crane conservation activities to OBNP rangers for exchange of collaboration.
A core population of Mongolian gazelle is distributed in Eastern Mongolian steppe. However, domestic herds are increased and mining operations take place in the region. Thus, the Mongolian gazelle population tends to often migrate having pushed away their habitats, lately.
Some of the Mongolian gazelle herds move into forest steppe in OBNP. So, the rangers have agreed to exchange their data and collaborate with regard to the species conservation.

SPECIALISTS OF PA OF THE AMUR BASIN TRAINED AT THE GUIDE SCHOOL

34 specialists of 10 federal protected areas of the Amur basin, employees of the Directorates of Protected Areas of Zabaikalsky, Amurskaya and Khabarovsky provinces, as well as local residents successfully passed training at the Guide School organized by WWF-Russia with the support of HSBC Bank in cooperation with the Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University. According to Anna Serdyuk, the curator of the Guide School project, head of the freshwater ecosystems department at WWF-Russia Amur branch, “A guide to a PA is not just a person with deep knowledge about wild nature objects and the ability to present them, but also a person who demonstrates how a tourist can make no harm to nature and even contribute to its conservation”.
Specially for this training, employees of the Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University prepared the program “Theory and Methodology of Excursions” with the qualification “Tour Guide”. This is 250 academic hours of comprehensive training for guides on biodiversity, ecosystems and the importance of preserving protected areas of the Amur basin, local history, and the basics of conflict-free and safe work with tourists on the routes.
This year, the Guide School was held in two stages: from October 24 to November 4, classes were held in a correspondence format, from November 7 to 11, training was conducted in person at the Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University. The trainers were specialists from organizations with extensive experience in the field of training guides: Blagoveshchensk State Pedagogical University, Amur Regional Museum of Local Lore and the Museum of Archeology.
Theoretical and practical classes included training on the basics of hospitality, psychology and conflict management, comfortable and safe stay of visitors in protected areas, first aid and survival in the wild. Students also received knowledge on the basics in tourism rules and regulations, design of tourist products, methodology for creating tours and technological maps of the route, on ethnography and heritage studies. After finishing the Guide School, its participants received a document of a standard form, confirming the successful completion of the course and receiving education with the specialization as a “guide”. This confirms their qualifications and the ability to work with tourists.

More details are here

MANAGEMENT ABILITY TRAINING FOR PROTECTED AREAS SUCCESSFULLY HELD ONLINE

On December 29, 2022, WWF, Tiger and Leopard National Park Administration, Daxinggou Forestry Bureau. and OPF successfully carried out online training on the management ability of protected areas. 120 senior managers, rangers and protection researchers and experts from the tiger reserve participated the online training. The management capacity of the protected area is closely related to the effective implementation of the tiger and leopard conservation work and the tiger and leopard conservation policy execution.
Effective management of nature reserves depends on the professional ability of senior managers. The improvement of the capacity of nature reserve managers can better interpret and formulate scientific and targeted conservation strategies and policies, which is conducive to promoting and implementing conservation management strategies, thus helping to improve the construction and management level of nature reserves. Continuously improving the technical and professional quality and performance ability of the management personnel of the nature reserves plays an important role in tiger conservation.

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WWF and its partners invited experts in the field of wild tiger conservation and research, conservationists of tiger reserves at home and abroad as trainers. Through online lectures and case studies, the content related to the management of protected areas were presented to the participants: from the construction of natural protected areas, ecological corridor construction to SAFE, from CA|TS, anti-poaching management to nature education project design and practice. The workshop can effectively help protected area managers to understand the management in multiple dimensions. The protection management experience of Russia and India also offered valuable reference for the participants.
Prof. Zhang Minghai, of Northeast Forestry University, pointed out in the training that “Tiger conservation cannot affect the normal production and operation activities of local communities. The goal of tiger friendly habitat restoration is to restore sustainable biodiversity, maintain the sustainable development of local communities.”
Ekaterina Blidchenko, senior researcher of the Land of Leopard National Park in Russia, said: “The human tiger conflict in the Leopard National Park is mainly manifested in the conflict between Amur tigers, leopards, dogs and livestock. The HTC in National Park has been effectively managed. We have reduced the risk of HTC through hotline, monitoring system, HTC response mechanism and community engagement.”
Ashish Bista, lead of HWC in WWF India, said: “In recent years, in India, especially in regions with high population density, the HTC has been intensifying. In order to solve this problem, India has also taken corresponding HTC management measures and issued relevant laws and regulations to mitigate the risk of HWC, such as early warning, investigation of HWC events, compensation for HTC cases and wildlife rescue.“
There are mainly 4 isolated tiger range in China, Wanda Mountains, Laoyeling Mountains, Zhangguangcai Mountains and Lesser Khingan Mountains with a total area of about 123,100 square kilometers. According to the statistics, China has established 83 nature reserves of various types in these tiger range including 1 national park, covering an area of 14,612 square kilometers; 45 national and provincial nature reserves, with a total area of 23,136 square kilometers; 37 other types of nature reserves, with a total area of 4,478.95 square kilometers; The total area of the nature reserve is 42,226.95 square kilometers, accounting for 34.30% of the total area of the whole tiger range. Such a huge number and area of nature reserve network needs the support of professional protection management team, and also requires the team to constantly improve their own management capacity. The continuous training, technologies and tools introduction will also help the capacity building for the protected areas.
In the future, WWF and its partners will further support the improvement of the management capacity of China’s tiger reserves, and support the conservation work in HWC management, anti-poaching assessment and management, eco-corridor construction and management, international conservation experience exchange and technology introduction.

IN PRIMORYE, 27 FUTURE POLICE OFFICERS TOOK FIELD COURSE ON THE INVESTIGATION OF ENVIRONMENTAL CRIMES

A unique field lesson on the investigation of environmental crimes in real conditions for 4th year cadets of the Vladivostok branch of the Far Eastern Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia was jointly conducted by WWF and the Rehab Center “Tiger”. The field lesson took place on the basis of the Severnaya hunting farm in the Nadezhdinsky district of Primorye. It was attended by the teaching staff of the Department of Criminology and 27 cadets of the Institute. After passing the theoretical part and getting acquainted with safety in the forest, the cadets went to the field, where WWF’s staff acted as teachers.
Pavel Fomenko, the chief project coordinator at WWF Russia Amur branch rare species conservation unit, prepared the scene of the alleged environmental crime and staged the whole process of the incident: disguised the remains of the carcass of an illegally extracted deer, according to legend, qualitatively concealed “material evidence”, hid the alleged crime weapon under the foliage, reproduced traces of dragging the carcass through the snow. The participants of the lesson were divided into three groups in order to compare the results of their work at the end of the event and determine which of the groups would most fully and accurately describe the scene of the incident, work better with physical evidence and be the most attentive to the collected evidence.
The investigation of the “crime” took place according to all the “laws of the genre”. The boundaries of the scene were marked with a protective tape, numbers were attached to areas significant for the investigation, the scene was tied to the terrain, a track of traces of the incident was compiled using GPS navigators, various investigative versions were worked out, a survey of “witnesses” was conducted, physical evidence was found and seized, including with the help of metal detectors, a saw and an axe.
All actions of the cadets were accompanied by detailed comments from Pavel Fomenko. The guys learned how to correctly “read” footprints in the snow, determine their freshness, how to apply this knowledge in practice when investigating crimes against wildlife, with which future investigators and detectives will have to work very soon. The presentor actively shared his many years of field experience in detecting and investigating environmental crimes, the peculiarities of conducting forensic biological examinations, and answered the questions of the trainees. In the final part of the lesson, the cadets got acquainted with the work of the Rehabilitation Center “Tigr”.
The field session continues the fruitful cooperation between WWF and the Law Institute on the joint development of training programs and scientific and methodological materials for the training of future law enforcement specialists, improving their skills in the investigation of environmental crimes. Previously, practical lessons on the investigation of illegal logging were held on the basis of the Primorsky State Agricultural Academy.
“When we conceived such field classes, we wanted not only to give the cadets the opportunity to live and investigate the situation, but also to interest the youth in the topic of nature conservation. They should understand that the investigation of crimes against nature should be approached no less carefully and comprehensively than crimes against the person, and maybe even with more attention. After all, in this case, the injured party will not write complaints and will not appeal the verdict. And only attention to detail and professionalism of the detectives and investigator are able to ensure fair punishment for citizens who have violated the law,” comments Olga Zherebkina, senior legal specialist at WWF Russia Amur branch.

A MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WAS SIGNED WITH LOCAL DECISION MAKERS

WWF-Mongolia supports and collaborates with local decision makers to ensure effective conservation activities in its programme areas. Recently, WWF-Mongolia Representative Mr. D. Batbold, and Khentii Aimag’s Governor Mr. Ts. Chogsomjav, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation. Khentii aimag (province) has been one of key local partners of WWF in the environmental conservation since 2007. Under the MoU, the parties are giving a focus on conservation and integrity of the fresh water, forest, and steppe ecosystems including Protected Areas and River Basins through collaborative and sustainable co-management. With the broadly defined goal, the parties aim to expand their collaboration in the areas such as improved environmental education and empowerment of community-based organizations (e.g. herder communities, forest user groups) with regard to conservation and sustainable use of natural resources and prevention and reduction of anti-environmental crimes and violations.

“BIG BROTHER’S TOUR” TV SERIES

In collaboration with the Mongolian National Broadcasting Television (MNB) and the renown experts from the National University of Mongolia, Mongolian Academy of Science and Mongolian Bird Conservation center, seven episodes of educational TV program named “Big brother’s tour” was prepared and broadcasted on national television in October-December 2022. The main objective of this program is to provide environmental education to children and encourage them to protect their environment. The episodes covered various topics such as importance and value of migratory species in the Eastern Steppes and their important habitats, promotion of protected areas such as Ulz goliin ekh, Khar Yamaat, Toson khulstai, Bayantsagaanii tal, Jaran togoonii A and Menen tsagaan khooloi Nature Reserves.
The eco-club children from Sukhbaatar soum of Sukhbaatar province and Bayan-Adarga soum of Khentii province took part in the tours. They enjoyed their trip to the habitat of Mongolian gazelle such as Toson khulstai, Bayantsagaanii tal, Jaran togoonii A and Menen tsagaan khooloi Nature Reserves.During the tour, participants were fortunate to observe a big herd of Mongolian gazelle (Procapra gutturosa), endangered red list species Great bustard (Otis tarda), and an endemic plant Brachanthemum Mongolorum. During the trip, students also learnt about the importance of wetlands, wetland protection measures implemented by the project in Ulz river source and Khar yamaat Nature Reserves, and observed migratory birds such as white-naped cranes, swans and geese.
The TV program was selected as top three most watched TV program of the November 2022 by the MNB channel. It reached almost 12000 people through live streaming on its social media channels. After the program was broadcasted on TV, the number of applications to become a member of the eco-club of Bayan-Adarga and Sukhbaatar soums tripled which shows that the program was well received by students, and they are interested to learn more about their environment and contribute to the conservation.

“STEPPE BEAUTY” CAMPAIGN SUCCESSFULLY ORGANIZED

The annual Mongolian gazelle protection campaign “Steppe beauty” was successfully organized in November 2022 under the theme “Wildlife friendly pasture management” to raise awareness of pasture degradation and habitat loss of Mongolian gazelle. This year’s campaign was organized in three stages that included field trips to habitats and connectivity areas of Mongolian gazelle, a joint meeting in Dornod province and promotional and education activities at their school and community. Prior organizing the campaign, ecoclub children and teachers were asked to share their ideas on the campaign activities, the 60% of them requested to organize a field trip to observe Mongolian gazelle and 72% of them wanted to organize a joint meeting.

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In the beginning of November, the 158 eco club children of 21 soums of Khentii, Dornod, and Sukhbaatar provinces travelled 6000 km through the habitats of Mongolian gazelle pastures and observed 11836 Mongolian gazelles. Guided by the local rangers in their soums, ecoclub children learnt about the characteristics of their habitat and observed the potential obstacles in their migration path. During the tour they also conducted short survey from the herders to know about their attitude towards protecting Mongolian gazelle habitats.
On November 22-23, the 64 eco-club children from 21 soums of Khentii, Dornod, and Sukhbaatar provinces gathered in Choibalsan, Dornod province and presented their observations of the field trip and ideas to protect Mongolian gazelle habitat to their aimag and soum authorities and specialists. Specialists from the Khentii, Dornod, and Sukhbaatar provinces also presented Mongolian gazelle conservation activities to children. Moreover, during the joint meeting, the connectivity areas of Mongolian gazelle was introduced to participants in an interesting and interactive way where they learnt about potential threats in
the connectivity areas.
Nandintod.S, a member of “Green future” eco-club said: “I am participating in the “Steppe beauty” joint meeting for the third time this year, I have learned a lot about the Mongolian gazelle through those meetings but going on the field trip to Mongolian gazelle habitat made me realize and pay more attention to our environment and how it is important to protect our pastureland and calving areas.”
The news on the joint meeting was disseminated through Dornod TV and Mongolian national radio where it reached 978 people through their social media channels.

Authors: WWF
File: AHEC-newsletter-No.66.pdf