Siberian tiger, leopard number doubles in NE China

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The populations of Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, two of the world's most endangered animals, have doubled over the past 14 years in northeast China's Jilin Province, according to research results released on Friday.

Siberian tigers. []

Siberian tigers. [] 

The number of Siberian tigers has reached as many as 10 in Jilin in the period, said Qiao Heng, deputy director of Jilin provincial bureau of forestry, who cited a survey conducted early this year.

The survey, which was jointly launched by the forestry authorities, the World Wide Fund For Nature and the Wildlife Conservation Society, showed that the population of Amur leopards in Jilin had reached as many as 11.

The numbers were double those recorded in 1998 when Chinese, Russian and U.S. experts conducted joint research, said Qiao. With improved conservation efforts, there have been more and more tiger paw prints spotted over the past couple of years.

The official attributed the increase in wild tigers and leopards to a 16-year-old ban on poaching and the establishment of a 100,000-hectare nature reserve in 2001.

Since 1996, local authorities have seized 75,000 hunting traps and 18,000 hunting guns.

"Over the 16 years, poaching has been effectively curbed. This resulted in big increases in various kinds of wild animals and so big cats received proper protection," Qiao explained.

The local forestry authorities have rolled out a plan to double again the wild tiger and leopard numbers in the next decade, reporters were told as the research was released.

Jilin will set up new nature reserves and migration corridors, and expand tiger and leopard surveillance this year, Qiao said. Meanwhile, Jilin's neighbor, Heilongjiang Province, is planning to build two nature reserves to protect the big cats.

Siberian tigers and Amur leopards mainly live in east Russia, northeast China and northern part of the Korean Peninsula. Some 500 Siberian tigers and 40 Amur leopards currently live in the wild.

Total number of wild Siberian tigers in China is estimated at around 20, mostly in Heilongjiang and Jilin, and according to Xinhua's calculations, seven have been found dead since 1993. Most of their deaths were related to human activities.

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