Updates from the field: Phoenix Fund
The effects of the pandemic have been felt across the globe, including in the remote birch forests of eastern Russia, one of the last strongholds of the infamous Amur tiger, the largest of the six surviving tiger subspecies.
Through this trying time our ground-based conservation partners, Phoenix Fund, have continued their incredible work protecting Amur tigers and their crucial habitat as well as working to reduce the human-wildlife conflict.
We received this update from Victoria Parfyonova Projects Coordinator in Russia:
“We all are safe, and things are starting to go back to normal – we are back in the office, having worked from home the whole of April and May. Thanks to preventative measures set by the government, the outbreak has not affected Vladivostok that badly and we have been able to continue working with some minor adjustments.
Our finances have suffered and a lot of people in the area have lost their jobs. The rangers have continued to patrol the protected areas with even greater vigilance in recent months, in order to prevent a potential increase in wildlife crimes.
Illegal hunting and arrests update
Land of the Leopard National Park’s rangers prevented an illegal hunt in the area by a potential poacher. Thanks to coordinated teamwork with the police, the unregistered firearms were seized.
“The possession of unregistered weapons at the borders of the national park is a crime, which implies the intention to conduct poaching. In our practice, there have already been similar precedents. Such people will not buy permits, engage in legal hunting in hunting farms.” said Eugeny Stoma, deputy director for protection of the Land of the Leopard.
“Our task is not only to detain violators directly in the protected area but also to facilitate the withdrawal of illegal arms from circulation. We will continue to collect and process operational information about such case,” continues Stoma.
The law enforcement team at Sikhote-Alin Nature Reserve also seized an illegal rifle and initiated criminal procedure for poaching.
According to Primorsky Krai Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife Management, the number of hunting violations has significantly dropped in the area, compared with the number of violations revealed during the same period in 2019. For example, from March 15 to April 12 wildlife managers issued 194 administrative citations compared with 283 administrative citations during the same period in 2019.
It is likely, some of the would-be poachers were put off during the lockdown period. Moreover, the waterfowl hunting season was closed earlier than usual this year, meaning there were fewer people in the parks.
Conservation Education programmes updates
Not only does Phoenix Fund safeguard Amur tigers in protected areas, they also create awareness for conservation issues among local communities through their education programmes.
Whilst law enforcement in the field remains unaffected by the pandemic, our educational activities had to slow down in the last two months of spring. In April, all the schools and kindergartens were closed, they are still closed, and the children are dismissed. To keep our young followers busy we organized drawing contest via Instagram and have received some amazing works.
Closing of schools meant our educators had to use online learning to continue their lessons. Some of our educators have been using Zoom to deliver their lessons and to connect with schoolchildren remotely. Unfortunately, in some villages, the Internet is very slow and sometimes even unavailable.
In 2019-2020, Phoenix focused on the issue of forest fires and took steps to help educators and outreach specialists teach school children about the implications of forest fires and how to prevent them from starting. We published a teacher’s guide with lesson plans, games and scenarios. Luckily, we were able to hold our annual workshop for 50 educators and outreach specialists at the end of March, just before all group gatherings were prohibited.
This spring we also published and distributed new materials on the peaceful coexistence with tigers.
We are now preparing for Tiger Day. We are hoping it will take place in September, but the final date is yet to be confirmed.”
Conservation has not stopped during all this global unrest and in parts of the world, the need has become even greater. With the economic world in turmoil, many have turned to the illegal wildlife trade as an alternative source of income to support their families, it is because of the courageous work that our partners are doing that are keeping these animals safe.