Patrol teams operating in protected areas use various transport means, including all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, four-wheel drive vehicles, boats and motorbikes. Analysis of patrol monitoring data show that foot patrols are most effective in detecting and apprehending poachers, but trespassing tourists are most often found during vehicle patrols.
"SMART Approach" for improving protection of Amur tigers and leopards in protected areas in Russia
This program is a collaborative effort of WCS Russia with Phoenix Fund (a Russian based conservation NGO) and the Zoological Society of London. Presently we work with 6 federal-level protected areas and we plan to expand our program to an additional protected area in the summer of 2015. Substantial progress in improving the quality of anti-poaching patrols has already been achieved in the 4 protected areas where we started operating in 2010 and 2011.
The Russian Far East is home to the world’s largest remaining population of wild Amur tigers, estimated at 430 to 500 individuals (2005). Recent data from the Amur Tiger Monitoring Program, a 17-year collaboration between the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Russian partners, provides strong evidence that both tiger and prey numbers are in decline. An increase in poaching, compounded by habitat loss, are the key drivers of this downward trend.
Findings of the Amur Tiger Monitoring Program highlight the importance of protected areas as core breeding habitat or ‘source sites’. Compared to adjacent forest lands, both adult and cub tiger densities in protected areas are significantly higher. However, despite their protected status, protected areas have experienced greater losses of tigers between 2005 and 2010 than unprotected areas due to poor law enforcement. Improving law enforcement in protected areas is therefore a priority for the conservation of tigers and other wildlife in the Russian Far East.
Our comprehensive program for improving anti-poaching in protected areas consists of the following components:
The long-term goal of our program is increasing tiger, leopard and prey populations in the program sites and - through dispersal - in adjacent areas. This figure illustrates the program GOALS.
What is the "SMART Approach" for improving patrol management?
The "SMART Approach" is based on the use of the law enforcement monitoring data in an adaptive patrol management process that is aimed at continuously improving patrol quality. The Law Enforcement Monitoring (LEM) uses GIS technology (Geographic Information System), which means that all patrol monitoring data are linked spatially and can be shown on maps. LEM makes it possible to assess and compare patrol efforts and results over time
The "SMART Approach" has rapidly become a very popular conservation tool worldwide. It is already applied at more than 150 conservation sites in Africa, Asia and South-America to improve the protection of species that face extinction due to poaching (e.g. tigers, elephants and rhinos). However, before the start of our program, it had not yet been tried in Russia.
Open a MAP of the four protected areas where this project is implemented.
Our patrol reports provided a first opportunity for management and inspectors of protected areas to view maps showing the patrol routes of various teams. In addition, they provide simple figures and tables showing the number of patrol days, patrol distances, time spent on various patrols and results of each of the teams. It is not surprising that the first patrol reports were met with much interest during the first feedback meetings at the four protected areas. At Land of the Leopard National Park in particular, the reports led to very lively discussions between inspectors and the management about patrol quality and options for improvement.
In the first full program year, 2011, we saw a marked growth in anti-poaching results at the two sites where we first introduced the "SMART Approach" in comparison to the three years previous to the start of our program (see figure on the right). In both reserves, the numbers of firearms confiscated more than doubled, the numbers of poachers caught increased by 1.8 to 2.5 times, and the total amount of fines increased by 1.3 to 7.2 times. At least part of these results are due to an increase in patrol quality in 2011 compared to previous years.
Since 2011, overall patrol efforts have continued to increase at the first 4 program sites (see figure below). However, anti-poaching results have not continued to increase after 2011 at these sites and in 2014 they reached the lowest level since the start of our program. This could mean that poaching levels are dropping as a result of increased patrol quality. However, more data are needed before reliable conclusions can be drawn. We witness the first signs of increasing tiger numbers at the 4 sites where we first started our program, however, here too, more data are needed before reliable conclusions can be drawn. Leopard numbers are clearly increasing at Land of the Leopard National Park (leopards do not occur at our other program sites). At the 2 sites where we started working in 2014 and 2015 more data are need before we can draw conclusions on trends in patrol efforts, patrol results and the impact on tiger and prey populations.
Three indicators of success in improving the average law enforcement effort per month of ranger teams in four protected areas between 2011 and 2014: 1) distance traveled on foot patrols; 2) distance traveled on motorized patrols (vehicle, motor bike, snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle or boat), and 3) total time spent on patrols.
Next StepsOver the next 1-2 years we want to further consolidate and institutionalize the “SMART Approach” as the standard method for patrol management at the current 6 program sites and achieve further improvements in the patrol quality, prey, leopard and tiger numbers at these sites. In addition we plan to expand our program to at least one more protected area in Amur tiger habitat, bringing the total number of program sites to 7.
Reducing tiger and prey poaching through improved law enforcement is one of the key strategies for tiger conservation identified at the St. Petersburg International Tiger Summit 2010.