October 20, 2010

Russia’s Amur Tiger Population Facing Logging Threat

The WWF said on Wednesday that the endangered Amur tiger population is being threatened by logging in a key habitat in Russia's Far East.

Denis Smirnov, head of forest program at WWF Russia's Amur Branch, said the local government in Primorsky region is planning to auction off about 990,000 cubic feet of forest next week, which is home to the Amur tiger. 

"Essentially these are the key habitat areas for the Amur tiger," Smirnov told AFP by phone from the regional capital Vladivostok.

"That is being done under the guise of improvement felling," he said, referring to the cutting down of damaged or old trees.

He said that once a tree-logging permit is obtained, it will be next to impossible to control how much timber will be cut.

The timber parcels expected to take place on October 26 include forestland in a future nature reserve that contains a cross-border habitat corridor between Russia and China.

About 400 Amur tigers remain in the wild in Russia, and a further 20 to 25 live in China. Degradation of the big cat's habitat and poaching of the tiger and its prey are blamed for its rapid disappearance.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has showed off his love for nature in the past by publicly kissing animals and engaging in a string of stunts involving wildlife, such as tigers, leopards, bears and whales.

Russia is scheduled to host a tiger summit in Saint Petersburg late next month, with Putin being expected to be in attendance.


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