Magazine article American Forests

Tales from the Tiger Front: Sergei Ganzei Is American Forests' Local Contact for Tree Planting in Russia. with Help from Field Rep Zane Smith, Here's an Update on This Ongoing Global ReLeaf Project. (Communities)

Magazine article American Forests

Tales from the Tiger Front: Sergei Ganzei Is American Forests' Local Contact for Tree Planting in Russia. with Help from Field Rep Zane Smith, Here's an Update on This Ongoing Global ReLeaf Project. (Communities)

Article excerpt

American Forests: How many tigers remain in the wild? Has that number changed recently? Do you see any trends connected with this?

Dr. Ganzei: The total number of Siberian tigers in 1996 was calculated at between 415 and 476. For the last 100 years the Siberian tiger population in Russia has fluctuated dramatically from a relatively high number at the beginning of the century through a critical low in the late 1930s and early 1940s, when an estimated 20 to 30 animals remained in the Russian Far East.

A population of probably no more than 50 during the early 1940s gradually increased to 300-400 in the early 1990s. The number of tigers has not changed significantly over the last five years. There are about 20 monitoring areas in Primorsky Krai where during the winter season our scientists use tiger tracks to calculate the count.

American Forests: What do the villagers who live near tiger preserves and plantations think about the recovery efforts?

Dr. Ganzei: In general they have a very positive reaction. Schoolchildren often take part in these recovery efforts by helping to plant, then watch for the planted seedlings and protect them. The phrase "No trees-no tigers" came from the local people. The "real-life" translation of this means that without forests life becomes gray; without tigers people lose part of life.

American Forests: Are any similar recovery efforts underway for other species?

Dr. Ganzei: Yes, the Far East leopard (Felis pardus orientalis) is in the same dangerous situation. There are only 30-45 leopards in the southwest of Primorsky Krai; it is the last wild population. The leopard has a similar, but not identical, habitat to the tiger. The reforestation work we are doing with AMERICAN FORESTS in southwest Primorye is aimed at tigers but will also benefit Far East leopards.

American Forests: Why is the Siberian tiger so important to the people of Russia (economically, emotionally, etc.)?

Dr. Ganzei: For all people--not just Russians--tigers are beautiful, powerful animals, the largest of the remaining five subspecies of cats. It is interesting that the city of Vladivostok uses tigers in its coat of arms as a symbol of power, safety, and wisdom.

It seems to me that economic stability and economic growth in Russia will help tigers because there is a connection between them. During times of economic crisis many people go to the forest to find additional food, futher taxing the ungulate population. Ungulate numbers have decreased, causing an imbalance between tigers and prey.

Most importantly, there has been a dramatic increase in poaching since the beginning of the 1990s. Various measures, including legislation, additional antipoaching rangers, and our work with local people, are helping to stem this increase, but I think improving the economic situation in Russia can't help but be beneficial to tiger recovery.

American Forests: Describe the Korean pine used in this project.

Dr. Ganzei: Korean pine is a stately tree reaching 115-130 feet in height and 4 feet in diameter. Pinus koraiensis can live to be 350 to 400 years old Its wood is comparable to common pine: soft, yellow-red or light pink, usually used as building material. The nuts are rich in oil and other mineral components and are a popular food. Russian federal law now forbids cutting Korean pine, as these forests are habitat of numerous animals that tigers hunt. For this project we used 3-year-old Korean pine grown in a special nursery. We also used 8-month-old seedlings prepared with U.S. Forest Service help in a greenhouse nursery in Primorsky Krai.

American Forests: Describe the type of plantings done for this project.

Dr. Ganzei: In 2000 we used standard planting methods with bulldozed strips 33 feet in width, spaced 100 feet apart with 810 seedlings per acre planted in a line down the middle of the strip from 8-12 inches apart. …

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