China has established a huge new 5,600-square-mile reserve in the North-Eastern part of the country. The reserve was established to protect two endangered big cat species, the Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard. The park will be spread across two provinces in China and is part of a new park system being established by China and is being encouraged by China’s president Xi Jinping according to the Chinese state news services.
This is major news for tigers and leopards
This is huge news for the endangered big cats. In 2007 for example, there were thought to be less than 30 Amur leopards living in the wild. The news for tigers was even worse with numbers dropping as low as five in China, though there were more Siberian tigers living across the border in Russia. China stopped logging in that part of the country and this has to some extent helped the populations of the big cats recover. There is also a small reserve just along the border which provides enough space for the numbers of big cats in the area to rise.
The big cats face numerous threats
Whilst the news is good the gains are tenuous. According to the IUCN both the Amur leopard and Siberian tiger face a variety of threat such as encroaching civilisation, poaching, the construction of new roads and climate change. Many of these threats have started to reduce through the designation of this large area of protected land as part of government mandated conservation plan. The plan for the park should be in effect by 2020.
Human-animal conflict ever present
When it comes to big cats there is always human-animal conflict. For example, pet dogs and livestock have been preyed upon by leopards and tigers that live close to human settlements. A Chinese government spokesperson said in order to counter this, the government intends to relocate some existing communities and factories that will lie within the grounds of the national park area. This should go a long way to helping to tackle the problem of conflict between wildlife and human activities.
China sees the US as a model of its park system
According to a report in the New York Times, the Chinese see America as a model for the kind of conservation it is engaging in, particularly its park system. Whilst the country does have thousands of nature reserves, the system lacks organisation. Rose Niu of the Paulson Institute which is working with the Chinese government on its national parks plan says the country wishes to develop a national park system that is in line with international standards, but also fits in with the Chinese context.