Landscape Ecology

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 491–503 | Cite as

Amur tigers and leopards returning to China: direct evidence and a landscape conservation plan

  • Tianming Wang
  • Limin Feng
  • Pu Mou
  • Jianguo Wu
  • James L. D. Smith
  • Wenhong Xiao
  • Haitao Yang
  • Hailong Dou
  • Xiaodan Zhao
  • Yanchao Cheng
  • Bo Zhou
  • Hongyan Wu
  • Li Zhang
  • Yu Tian
  • Qingxi Guo
  • Xiaojun Kou
  • Xuemei Han
  • Dale G. Miquelle
  • Chadwick D. Oliver
  • Rumei Xu
  • Jianping Ge
Research Article

Abstract

Context

The Amur tiger and leopard, once roaming over the Eurasian continent, are now endangered and confined to the Sikhote-Alin Mountains, Russia—a landscape that has been increasingly fragmented due to human activities. The ultimate fate of these big cats depends on whether they can resettle in their previous main historical range in NE China. Recent sightings of these animals along the China–Russia border have aroused new hope, but direct evidence is lacking.

Objectives

The main objectives of our study were (1) to determine the abundance and spatiotemporal patterns of tigers, leopards, and primary prey; (2) to investigate factors influencing the resettlement of the two big cats; and (3) to propose a landscape-scale conservation plan to secure the long-term sustainability of the Amur tiger and leopard.

Methods

We monitored the two felids, their prey, and human activities, with 380 camera-trap stations, for a total of 175,127 trap days and over an area of 6000 km2 in NE China. We used the constraint line method to characterize cattle grazing and human influences on tigers, leopards, and their prey species.

Results

Our results show that, unexpectedly, at least 26 tigers and 42 leopards are present within China, which are confined primarily to a narrow area along the border with Russia. We have further identified that cattle grazing and human disturbances are the key hurdles to the dispersal of the tigers and leopards farther into China where suitable habitat is potentially available.

Conclusions

Amur tigers and leopards are returning to China, indeed, but their long-term resettlement is not likely without active and timely conservation efforts on landscape and regional scales. To overcome the hurdles to the resettlement of tigers and leopards in China, we propose a “Tiger and Leopard Resettlement Program” that will engage the government, local communities, and researchers, so that the long-term sustainability of the Amur tigers and leopards can be ensured.

Keywords

Panthera tigris altaica Panthera pardus orientalis Camera-trapping Human disturbance Cattle control Nature reserve Conservation planning 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We sincerely thank Somphot Duangchantrasiri and Saksit Simcharoen for their great help with verifying the identities of tiger and leopard individuals. We also thank the State Forestry Administration, Jilin Province Forestry Bureau, and the Forestry Industry Bureau of Heilongjiang Province for field assistance. This work was supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31210103911, 31270567, 31421063, 31200410, 31470566 and 31300458) and the National Scientific and Technical Foundation Project of China (2012FY112000).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tianming Wang
    • 1
  • Limin Feng
    • 1
  • Pu Mou
    • 1
  • Jianguo Wu
    • 2
    • 3
  • James L. D. Smith
    • 4
  • Wenhong Xiao
    • 1
  • Haitao Yang
    • 1
  • Hailong Dou
    • 1
  • Xiaodan Zhao
    • 1
  • Yanchao Cheng
    • 1
  • Bo Zhou
    • 1
  • Hongyan Wu
    • 1
  • Li Zhang
    • 1
  • Yu Tian
    • 5
  • Qingxi Guo
    • 6
  • Xiaojun Kou
    • 1
  • Xuemei Han
    • 7
  • Dale G. Miquelle
    • 8
  • Chadwick D. Oliver
    • 9
  • Rumei Xu
    • 1
  • Jianping Ge
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Engineering & College of Life SciencesBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Life Sciences & School of SustainabilityArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  3. 3.Center for Human-Environment System Sustainability, State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource EcologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  4. 4.Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation BiologyUniversity of MinnesotaSaint PaulUSA
  5. 5.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Criteria and Risk AssessmentChinese Research Academy of Environmental ScienceBeijingChina
  6. 6.College of ForestryNortheast Forestry UniversityHarbinChina
  7. 7.NatureServeArlingtonUSA
  8. 8.Wildlife Conservation Society, Russian ProgramBronxUSA
  9. 9.School of Forestry and Environmental StudiesYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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