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Sino-Russian lab to help advance Siberian tiger conservation

By Zhou Huiying and Tian Xuefei in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-18 07:26
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Experts from China and Russia unveil the joint research laboratory for Siberian tiger conservation at Northeast Forestry University in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, on Thursday. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A Sino-Russian joint research laboratory for Siberian tiger conservation will better implement the international cooperation strategy between China and Russia on cross-border tiger and leopard protection, experts said at the facility's unveiling ceremony held on Thursday at Northeast Forestry University in Harbin, Heilongjiang province.

The lab has been co-developed by China's Feline Research Center of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration and the Institute of Ecology and Evolution A.N. Severtsov of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

It aims to promote information and technology exchanges, facilitate international cooperation and data sharing, and advance cross-border tiger conservation, management demonstration, academic exchanges, talent cultivation as well as multidisciplinary cooperation.

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, and Amur leopards are among the most endangered species on the planet. They primarily inhabit the Russian Far East and the northeastern region of China.

Liu Ming, an expert from the International Society of Zoological Sciences, said these big cats are apex predators and can provide an indication of the health of the ecosystem as a whole. They are immeasurably valuable in maintaining nutritional diversity and biodiversity, and have thus garnered widespread international attention, he said.

"However, these big cats face severe challenges such as habitat loss, poaching, illegal wildlife trade, human-wildlife conflicts, disease transmission and climate change. Therefore, more proactive and innovative measures are necessary to address the multiple challenges in the conservation of large feline species," he said.

As Siberian tigers and Amur leopards frequently move between China and Russia, cross-border cooperation is key to enabling effective monitoring and protection measures, Liu said.

Since the start of the Sino-Russian Cross-Border Conservation of Amur Tigers and Amur Leopards Cooperation Agreement in 2010, the two countries have continued cooperation and exchanges to facilitate the protection of these big cats, including the construction of ecological corridors, sharing of scientific research data and conducting joint population studies, he said.

"China, Russia and the rest of the world have made significant efforts and achievements in the protection and habitat restoration of Amur tigers and Amur leopards, as well as in cross-border cooperation, providing an important example for global wildlife conservation," he added.

Jiang Guangshun, director of the expert committee of the Sino-Russian laboratory and a professor at Northeast Forestry University, said an international research team for the protection of endangered animals, such as Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, will be set up at the facility.

The experts will promote exchanges and cooperation between China and Russia for theoretical research, technology implementation, construction of gene banks, and wildlife disease monitoring and research. They will also promote research on the behavioral development of Siberian tiger cubs and prevention of human-tiger conflicts, Jiang said.

Liu Shouxin, vice president of Northeast Forestry University, said the university, with its long history and distinctive characteristics, has unique geographical advantages and outstanding academic strengths in the field of ecology and environment.

"As early as the 1960s, the university established specialized institutions to conduct research and investigations on Siberian tigers and their habitats," he said.

Over the years, these centers have conducted in-depth research in precise management of Siberian tiger habitats, and have established a tiger monitoring network, making important contributions to the development of tiger and leopard conservation in China, he added.

Just over 10 Siberian tigers were believed to be living in the wild in China at the end of the 20th century, according to Xinhua News Agency.

With the continuous advancement of forest conservation projects and the establishment of a natural protected area, Chinese researchers have monitored at least 20 Siberian tiger cubs in the wild in recent years.

Yin Feng, chief engineer of the China Wildlife Conservation Association, said that Sino-Russian cooperation is expected to deeply analyze the complex problems facing Siberian tiger conservation efforts, and seek scientific solutions to those problems.

"We also hope it can provide exemplary experience for the cross-border protection of large carnivorous animals worldwide," Yin added.

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